Saturday, July 7, 2012

Magic Mike

I am the target audience for "Magic Mike" only in the sense that I follow the work of its director Steven Soderbergh and was interested in seeing what his newest effort would look like. Honestly, though, this man's oeuvre has only become distinguished by its unique visual style (designed, impressively, by he himself), still one of the best in the business but not enough to sustain film after lackluster film. Part of the reason for the inconsistency in his films must be his outsourcing the script to a different screenwriter each time around. This time, Reid Carolin (who also appears in the film) takes up the reins, and what results is extremely lazy and patchy, especially in key moments. Of course, the writing was never supposed to be good enough to distract the target audience from what they came for, but at times here it's a little bit below serviceable. It also distracts from all the supposed allegorical stuff, which is dangerous because it ruins the film's appeal as commercial art and instead makes it seem more just like a doodle Soderbergh made to pay the bills.

That isn't to say that the appeal of the film to others isn't understandable. As the titular main attraction and partial owner of a male strip club, Channing Tatum is, when he isn't failed by the dialogue, as much the likable presence as the film's champions have called him. He wants more and sort of gets the audience involved in his quest, even if it is a little hard feeling for someone who feels like they should be able to get whatever they want when they want it. And, playing the intensely devoted coordinator and owner of the joint, Matthew McConaughey's got a magnetism that he knows how to use and play with, edging at times into insane zeal with the knowledge that everyone else will follow along. He's by far the most interesting figure on-screen throughout the entire film.

But I can't see how people could buy Alex Pettyfer's Adam (a.k.a. The Kid), who, in a very pivotal role, shades cartoonishly from mild-mannered leech into insensitive male stripper prodigy over the course of a couple weeks. Cody Horn as the sister he continues to impose upon (and whom Mike develops a thing for) is just as inconsistent, if somewhat affecting in some bits.

Praising Soderbergh for his direction seems kind of a rash thing to do. His only significant contribution to the film is the light-drenched, somewhat '70s-esque cinematography, which is to rank among the year's strongest achievements. Though it makes the film watchable on a moment to moment basis, in certain instances (such as an impromptu visit to a beach off Tampa), it rises to the level of magnificence.   Since he's his own editor too, he knows how long to keep a take going and utilizes this command well. All that being said, he hasn't made a film in a while (ever?) that's truly won me over. C


Stephanie said...

I am interested in seeing this movie though I'm reading mixed reviews. It sounds like a worthwhile though uneven film. I'm disappointed to hear you didn't like the scriptwriting though. That doesn't bode well for my liking this movie. :-)

I like this: "it ruins the film's appeal as commercial art and instead makes it seem more just like a doodle Soderbergh made to pay the bills." You have a sharp wit.

Nick Duval said...

It's becoming a conversation piece largely because of its box-office business and slight bite. Worth seeing? Sure. One of the best American films of the year? Not a chance.