Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

05 January 2013

Ten Facts about Magic Mike

1. This film is directed by Steven Soderbergh not Bruce La Bruce. It is in no way pornographic. It is, in fact, hardly even prurient. With all of the lens flares, however, it does occasionally look like a film directed by J.J. Abrams.

2. Magic Mike is an unremarkably conventional narrative that involves an older "expert" teaching "the ropes" to a noob (this one is conventionally named "the kid"), whom he has "discovered". This narrative progresses precisely how you think it progresses. The expert begins to see himself in the noob. It's fun at first, of course, and then he sees how the young man is falling prey to this fast-and-loose lifestyle. He sees how this lifestyle will eat this boy alive and (what's more!) that it has already consumed the expert himself. But it's not too late! He will turn his life around. Make a change. You know the drill. Magic Mike, however, because of how well it is made, often feels like something other than the narrative I just described.

3. Is Magic Mike better than, say, a film like Savages? No, it isn't. Is it better than The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel? It is.

4. Channing Tatum is fantastic. He is so good. In a review of A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints once many years ago, I described a scene in which Channing Tatum made me gasp with a bit of acting he did. He did something similar in Magic Mike in two separate scenes. I think he is great in this.

5. Matthew McConaughey's singing in Magic Mike is, in all probability, better than Russell Crowe's in Les Misérables. You be the judge.

6. This film is kind of homophobic. I mean, there's a lot of bro stuff happening here. A lot of half-naked men around each other at all times. A lot of "I love you man"s being thrown around. None of them ever has sex with one another, of course, and none of them is into dudes or anything. The whole thing is queerly inflected, but none of it is ever actually queer. Not that I was hoping for some kind of "There's nowt as queer as folk" moment like the one in The Full Monty, but I was kind of expecting a little more queerness from the movie and a lot less "no homo" bullshit, which is there in spades.

7. I totally cried. Not till the end when Channing is crying, but still.

8. If I had to choose one of the guys, I'd go for Alex Pettyfer.

9. McConaughey is pretty good in this. He's always interesting, totally wild, and a bit unhinged, actually, when it comes down to it. Truth be told, the acting is fairly good across the board – particular kudos to Olivia Munn, whom I loved.

10. Hidden somewhere inside this film is a very interesting film about class, about the sex-service industry (which includes male strippers), about the shortage of livable wages in Florida, about the ways in which middle-class people pay working-class people to sell them their bodies in various ways, and about the ways in which the middle class then later excludes people who work in such industries from its own ranks. We don't want your cash, thank you so much; unfortunately it's all one dollar bills and we know where that money came from. Magic Mike is neither this conscientious nor this intelligent, but it is passable stuff.