If I told you that Magic Mike is a film about the highs and lows of male stripping and stars Channing Tatum (a real life ex-stripper) as the title stud, most heterosexual men would run in fear. Slow your row cowboy, this isn’t your average guys-in-sweaty-thongs-with-dirty-dollar-bills kinda’ film. Instead, Steven Soderbergh side steps the usual banalities and delivers an arty true-to-real-life film that explores the subject with maturity and depth.
In Magic Mike, hip-hop hunk Channing Tatum, whose talent has always been a topic of debate, delivers his most believable performance to date. Yes, he is half-naked for most of the film, gyrating his male parts to a crowd of frantic bored housewives (while Ginuwine’s Pony blasts), but thankfully it’s not all bachelorette party fun. His character Magic Mike has aspirations beyond his circumstances – a side that Tatum delivers with modest charm. Soderbergh doesn’t just feed us the glitz and glam of the male stripper world, he also shows the unhealthy – drugs, sex, self-destruction and lies. It’s not really a plot-driven movie, but rather a fly on the wall type of film.
The story (based partly on Tatum’s own life experiences) starts off when Mike, a hustler with three jobs, becomes a mentor to Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a young aimless nobody who is in need of a decent living. Mike takes him to charm school and teaches him the art of seduction, both on and off the stage. Under the watchful eye of the dim-witted club owner Dallas (Matthew McConaughey channelling Tom Cruises performance in Magnolia), Adam is groomed and instated into the team. His older sister, Brooke, however, is less excited about her brother’s career choice. She instructs Mike to take care of him, but Adam soon finds trouble. As Mike witnesses Adam’s rise and fall, he realizes that he wants more out of life.
It’s not raunchy Showgirls and not quite as epic as Boogie Nights, but it shares the same trajectory. Thankfully, the oiled-up cast deliver the goods, with strong performances by Tatum and McConaughey. The message rings clear – strippers have feelings too.