I have never been to a live male strip show. I worked, very briefly, as a cocktail waitress in a seedy Canadian border bar that featured female strippers, late at night. Talking to the gals and hearing their stories convinced me, when I was very young, that there is a huge personal price to be paid for doing that kind of work.
And that’s pretty much Steven Soderbergh’s starting point in his best movie since “sex, lies and videotape”.
If you’re looking for a girlie night out that just has loads of titillating action, you’ll be slightly disappointed. The dance routines, stripping scenes and the crowds in this Tampa, Florida setting all feel real and are terrific.
Magic Mike (Channing Tatum) is a very experienced male stripper who takes the younger Adam (Alex Pettyfer) under his wing and, as The Kid, Adam learns to party hard, dance and strip and make money.
Adam’s living with his sister, Brooke (Cody Horn) and much of the joy in this film is the easy and natural chemistry between Horn and Tatum.
Matthew McConaughey as Dallas is totally brilliant. Just for once, Pettyfer’s built-in sneer really works to his advantage as it’s right for this character.
It’s worth noting that Olivia Munn as Joanna and all the male strippers are very good and utterly believable.
But it’s Channing Tatum’s movie and most other people are there to put Mike on a better path in life. Will he grab redemption and make the furniture he loves or will he move to the big time with his fellow strippers?
As it’s Soderbergh, that choice could always go in a number of ways. Reid Carolin’s script is tight and he gets a small role as Paul.
It’s based on Tatum’s own real experience of stripping in Florida in the late 1990s.
With cinematography and film editing by Soderbergh (using pseudonyms) there is lots of fantastic film to watch here. The beach, club and home sets are all truly beautful and have a really different look to them.
The soundtrack is excellent, too.
The six women sitting in front of me at the Stratford Picturehouse were there to see naked men. They got that, but they fiddled around with their phones and chatted during the really interesting bits. I shushed them and – hooray – it worked.
If you want messages from movies, there are lots of them here. Yes, I know what most of them are but it’s still incredibly entertaining to see how we get there. This is the most fun I have had at the cinema this year, while being led to think exactly what I think already.
I’ll be buying the DVD. If all you want is the naughty bits, you can skip around and see those. Or, you can watch a film that says quite a lot about relationships, friendship, work and alienation. That’s up to you.