Thursday, July 5, 2012

Magic Mike (2012) – Review

Review: Magic Mike is more than just the spectacle of attractive men dancing without shirts on. It is a solid drama about growing up and deciding what is important in life. The film is about Mike, an entrepreneur who wants to start his own custom furniture business, but is drawn to the party lifestyle of his night job as an exotic dancer. During one of Mike’s day jobs, he meets Adam, an aimless recent college dropout, who Mike brings into his lifestyle, and introduces him to dancing. With Adam, however, also comes his sister Brooke, who challenges Mike on what he really wants out of life. Director Steven Soderbergh structures the narrative with a protagonist who is a veteran of the business looking to make a change, but he also has an outsider (Adam) who get introduced to the world as the secondary lead (when typically, this type of character would probably be the protagonist). Soderbergh does commit a lot of screen time to what could be called “eye candy” sequences (much like a blockbuster), but does not forget to give his characters, especially Mike, Adam and Brooke character moments and real drama, which ultimately is what makes the film compelling. Mike’s struggle to find himself is something the audience can connect with, as we all go through something similar when we make decisions about the future. Soderbergh also structures Mike’s character arc simplistically, which is good, because again he commits a lot of time to dancing sequences. A complicated dramatic arc would potentially have made the film more tedious and/or overly long. However, while the film works well as a drama, it does have a few issues, namely the pacing is a tad slow at times and Mike is not really the most interesting character in the film. Adam, as an outsider being drawn in by the bright lights, naïve to the consequences (much like Nomi in Showgirls), seems like he would have been a more interesting character to have the narrative follow. Rather, Adam is sort of like a younger version of Mike, thus the audience sees both the beginning and end of Mike’s career through two characters at the same time. The advantage of the outsider is that he, like the viewer, needs to be told about how things work, and thus is someone the audience can identify with more so than a veteran of the game like Mike. The other disadvantage of essentially splitting the protagonist to a degree between two characters is that the supporting characters are not given much depth. The viewers do get some insight into Brooke and a little into Dallas (Mike’s boss), but the other male dancers are just background. Mike alone is not quite a strong enough character to carry the narrative, which does hurt the film a bit. Magic Mike, overall, is exactly what it sets out to be – a good drama with lots of male stripping (for its so inclined fans), but it is not really a film about male strippers. Mike could have done anything, as really it is about him growing up and finding himself, and here it works, but only to a degree as Mike is not quite a well-drawn enough character.

Technical, aesthetic & acting achievements: Steven Soderbergh is often known for his visual style, using techniques more prevalent in the 1960s and 1970s than modern cinema (like optical zooms), but with Magic Mike he shot it in a fairly straightforward manner, allowing the performances to play. The dance sequences have more of an artistic style, and there is a drug-use scene that is done in a fairly typical distorted manner. Soderbergh, who also serves as the film’s cinematographer (something he often does), uses lighting gels or postproduction color correction in a few of the outside scenes to make Mike’s world look a little dirtier, with the sky a dirty yellow as opposed to a blue (it is very noticeable in the sandbar party scene), maybe as a comment on Mike’s lifestyle (or society’s view on it). The soundtrack for the film worked well with the tone and dancing style. Howard Cummings’s production design is fairly straightforward as well. There is nothing that stands out, as the film is presented to take place in a realistic space (though, I got the sense that despite Mike wanting to save money, he still lived a bit above his means from the design work for Mike’s house). The cast is good overall. Olivia Munn is good in what could be considered her dramatic feature debut, playing Joanna a character that just uses Mike. She serves as sort of the general societal opinion of Mike. Matthew McConaughey is also good in support. His Dallas resembles a modern and older version of his Dazed and Confused character, just trying desperately to cling to his fleeting youth. Alex Pettyfer and Cody Horn both have breakout performances in the film, and sort of steal it as secondary leads. Pettyfer plays Adam as a wide-eyed troublemaker who is just looking for an excuse to make easy money and not have responsibility (again, seeing his character arc might have been more interesting). Horn is good as Adam’s easygoing but concerned sister Brooke, who serves as the moral center for the film, and the saving grace to some extent for Mike. Channing Tatum continues to improve as both a leading man and actor. Here, he is good, but Mike is not a great character and thus he does not really have too much dramatic acting to do.

Summary & Score: Magic Mike has both spectacle and drama making for a good film. 7/10

No comments:

Post a Comment