Thursday, 12 July 2012

Magic Mike 2012

It's a little pretty, a little not. A little gritty, a little not. What ever it is, it's definitely not the film I thought I was going to watch. So, five stars for the trailer that incidentally did not give away everything about the film - or make that one star because it sold a completely different film!

Do I sound confused?

Adam (Alex Pettyfer) moves to Tampa to live with his sister Brooke (Cody Horn), after getting into trouble and being kicked out of college. While working at a construction site, he meets Mike (the eponymous Magic Mike - Channing Tatum), who helpfully initiates Adam into the world of stripping, where the money is fast and the women even faster. Cue scenes of gyrating male pelvises, followed by lots of alcohol and sex, followed by more gyration. Oh and of course the club owner, Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), is cool but a little mad, and predictably as nurturing as he is conniving. Through Mike's special tenderness towards Brooke, we become privy to the cracks in his facade, and share his hopes and dreams, which are much bigger than his current lifetsyle. We also witness the impressionable Adam corrupted by the pull of the fast life. Things go up and things go down (no pun intended) - and the film ends.

The reason I am confused is that like many other women in the audience, I went to see some male booty and some comedy. That's what the trailer had somehow led me to believe this film was about. I had even made some comparisons to the Bollywood comedy Desi Boyz (2011), where two friends - played by Akshay Kumar and John Abraham - turn to stripping for some fast money, under the tutelage of a nutty club owner - played by Sunjay Dutt.

But Magic Mike isn't that film. It is, in fact, a mixed bag. There is definitely a lot of booty (male and female), some very sexy dancing (mainly by ex-stripper Tatum) and some quite funny dialogue. And then there's the curveball thrown in - the film tries to be a fly-on-the-wall documentary. And then swerves in a different direction and gets overly dramatic. In some scenes it works brilliantly and in others it jars. Like some recent Steven Soderbergh-directed films, I am not sure exactly what he is trying to do here. None of the characters or situations are explored fully - and nothing makes complete sense. Scenes jump, in tone and framing, from moody to thoughtful to cliched. So do the characters.

Adam's change from vulnerable to confident to cocky comes about too quickly. Dallas's character seems to make no sense either - is he a don or a prima donna? What does Mike really want? His relationship with Joanna (his go-to-shag) is in direct contrast with his relationship with Brooke - and his supreme sacrifice to save Adam has no basis or precedent. And Brooke has an inexplicable character arc too - is she earnest or just playing hard-to-get? Most importantly, none of these puzzle pieces fit together. Even the camera work, with Soderbergh's new pet, the Red digital camera, goes from edgy to boring. There are so many different styles and tones at work here, that the film seems to have been directed by someone suffering from bipolar disorder.

Does this mean I didn't enjoy it? On the contrary! What the film does not deliver in consistency, it more than compensates in 'visual treats', alternating with some beautifully shot, well-written, character-driven scenes. Also, the actors pulled their weight. Matthew McConaughey does a decent turn as sleazy Dallas; Cody Horn has the right proportion of angst and oomph; Alex Pettyfer is surprisingly well-cast to play the endearing misfit and the slimy bastard; and in his own production, Channing Tatum has shown acting chops I did not know he possessed. For someone who's been nothing more than an all-American jock for me, Tatum really impressed me with his expressions, his voice and body language, and his comic timing. His scenes with Cody Horn are raw - and the dialogue between them is written and acted in the most natural, believable manner. So, he gets a gold star for really carrying the film through (yes, yes, I know - it's supposed to be based on his experiences, but that doesn't mean he has to act well!).

I'm not sure what basis to recommend this film on. It's pretty in places and thoughtful in others - and if you're interested in film-making, it could serve as a masterclass on what not to do. So, really I'm not recommending it, even though I did enjoy it myself!

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