By Lark Sine
If your first assumption is that Magic Mike is about strippers who are caught up in the life of sex, drugs, and alcohol, you’re right. However, this movie surprisingly has more depth to it than that. The movie has something for everyone, from beautiful men dressed in less-to-nothing, to interesting characters with more-than-one layer, to a well-written story with well-placed twists and turns.
From a psychologist’s point of view, the likable and talented Magic Mike (Channing Tatum) is in a state of identity moratorium: radical exploration of all that life has to offer, which the movie mirrors. Throughout the movie, Steven Soderbergh uses cinematography, music, and an insightful script to give the audience an exploratory view of Magic Mike’s desperate search for meaning in his life.
Mike is an unashamed “entrepreneur/stripper,” going through a moral crisis. Channing Tatum, who plays Magic Mike, will captivate you with the facade of a confident man who knows what he wants by night. By day, however, a literal light is shed on a man who is stuck in a reality he does not belong in. While Mike is stripping the audience is treated to a world filled with vibrant colors, quick camera shots, and energetic acting. Off stage, however, a distinct yellow camera filter is used to represent Mike’s drawn-out hangover. The movie’s soundtrack is also dramatically different from scene to scene, using hip, modern music to highlight the stripper’s irresponsible nightlife activities, and gloomier music in the daytime, which allows the audience to see how heavy Mike’s situation really is. Mike does not want to be a stripper. He is not ashamed of what he does, but stripping is not his passion. Mike’s dream is to run his own carpentry business, but his dream is always a little out of reach.
When Mike comes across Adam (Alex Pettyfer), who is ignorant to his own moral crisis, and Adam’s protective older sister (Cody Horn), it becomes clear to Mike that his life choices affect more than himself. As Mike’s attitude changes, the movie becomes less energetic and more dramatic. We see increasingly longer takes, more serious dialogue we begin to see the consequences of Adam and Mike’s carefree lifestyle.
Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, and Matthew McConaughey can all put on a show, but McConaughey’s talent deserves way more than one dollar bills. While Channing Tatum’s dance moves are a definite crowd pleaser, McConaughey portrayal of Dallas steals scenes with swagger alone. His ability to capture Dallas’ charisma and borderline sociopathic behavior is unmatched among the cast. Cody Horn also does an excellent job at playing the calm to the storm that is Mike and Adam’s sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll lifestyle. Cody’s subtle disapproving facial expressions are able to say what the audience is thinking–that Mike and Adam can’t live like this for long. Overall, the actors each deliver the movie’s well-written dialogue with the perfect balance of humor and emotion.
Magic Mike’s biggest surprise is its surprising depth. While most audience members expected the movie to be a gaudy sex-romp, which it is, it is also a character-driven piece that teaches a lesson about the dangers of an excessive lifestyle. Soderburgh and the cast have taken a movie that could’ve been a shallow film meant only for twenty-something girls that want to ogle Channing Tatum and turned it into an enjoyable film that explores the process of growing up. While it may not be the perfect film, it will leave audiences looking for both sugar and spice, as well as the meat and potatoes of a meaningful film, satisfied.