Sunday, 9 August 2015

I've Just Seen: Magic Mike (2012)

Magic Mike (2012)
Director: Steven Soderbergh

You can tell this is a film not made by a mainstream American director. The shot choices give it away; lots of wide shots. While this makes sense in a film with several dance sequences, Soderbergh uses it for conversation scenes as well. One particular scene happens on a beach, where Tatum's Mike talks with Olivia Munn's Joanna and Cody Horn's Brooke. We don't cut to close-ups of their faces, and watch a series of reverse shots. Instead, Soderbergh holds an extended, wide shot. The effect is to make the audience aware of the characters bodies, and also distances us from the action: it is voyeuristic. It is telling that the final scene between Brooks and Mike has several close-ups of them speaking to each other.

The camera shots align us with the female audiences of Mike's shows, who go along to enjoy the bodies of fit, oiled (and sadly hairless) men. It also portrays the emotional state of Mike, who feels a bit separate from many in his life. He doesn't quite fit in with the other strippers, as he has ambitions outside this life, and doesn't want to fall into the dubious side of the business. Channing Tatum plays Mike really well; he is confident and charming, but imbues him with depth. Matthew McConaughey is a bit of a scene-stealer, with his quietly sinister Dallas. Cody Horn was also good, giving Brooke a streak of wry wit.

The dance scenes are the main highlight. As a straight feminist, the sight of a bunch of good-looking men doing body rolls, hips swivels and general gyrating is a great change from the usual cratering to the (straight) male gaze. While I would never go to one of those places to watch a show (for several reasons, one being that I am a confirmed introvert), I was more than happy to see it on screen: I love a dance scene. Tatum can dance extremely well; it was hard to take your eyes of him when he started.

This is refreshing approach to a story that could easily have been coy and sentimental is handled by a less daring director.

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