‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’ is part of a long-running series created by Nathaniel Rogers at The Film Experience. It asks writers to pick their favorite frame of a movie and expand on how it represents the movie as a whole to him or her.’
2012’s Magic Mike is a prime example of why I miss our annual, or sometimes more, arrival of Steven Soderbergh to cinemas. Though able to make ambitious, complicated works with the greatest of them, Soderbergh was able to create mainstream cinema that was equal parts playful, invigorating and smart.
Smart might not be the word people think of when they hear someone mention Magic Mike, but that’s only because they either haven’t seen it or are so taken by the bodies on display that the brain is a melted mush on the floor. With a script by Reid Carolin, Soderbergh took the story of a male stripper, his personal business pursuits and the people he meets along the way and molded it into a perfectly constructed piece of pop-entertainment. The film embraces its blunt sexuality without letting it be the defining matter, with the various undressings ranging from amusingly over-the-top (the Ken doll come to life) or frankly into the physical (Channing Tatum’s dance to Ginuwine’s “Pony”). Tone is of course key and Soderbergh has always been a master at that above all else. Magic Mike hums along the line between fantasy and reality, providing his scenes with enough weight make them more than frivolous, while never diving to deep from the flashing lights or smirking humor.
This is best represented by Matthew McConaughey’s Dallas, the leader of the stripping pack, boss-man and master of ceremonies. It’s like if Joel Grey’s character from Cabaret kept all of the magnetism and layered onto it the dream that if the women in attendance play their cards just right, he might personally seduce them. He opens up the film with his rundown of what the audience is and isn’t allowed to touch. As he rubs his pecks he asks, “Can you touch this? Can you touch this?” Responding to his own query, “No, no, no, no.” Then prodding those gazing at his leather-clad cowboy gear the same thing, only with a different body part, with the corresponding denial. It’s a bit of fun, hinting at what is to follow, with Soderbergh, doing his own cinematography as usual, presenting it all in an enticing atmosphere. We don’t get up-close glimpses of every bodypart Dallas highlights, just as Soderbergh refrains from skipping between various shots of elated women. These aren’t needed. The mood is already established.