This week in Hit Me with Your Best Shot, our dear Nathaniel invited us to anticipate the release of Magic Mike XXL by taking a look at the 2012 original directed by the once-prolific-now-alledgedly-retired Steven Soderbergh.
I didn’t quite appreciate the strengths of Magic Mike the way I should have when I first saw it. I still find it to be a flawed movie, but whereas I used to think it was just an ok version of the story it was telling, revisiting the movie has made me appreciate what Soderbergh and his collaborators where trying to accomplish, even though they don’t succeed to the degree I would like them to. In any case, I’m not a big Soderbergh fan in general, but would be an idiot not to recognize Magic Mike as an outstanding work of filmmaking as far as aesthetics are concerned. The cinematography and editing in particular.
I also can’t keep going without relishing in the fact that Soderbergh decided that this particular story about a decadent male stripper would be the perfect way to explore the effect of the 2008 market crash and the most recent economic recession in American life. Even more impressive is the fact that, while indulging in his usual clinically precise and distant style, he didn’t shy away from the raw sexual power and showmanship that comes with the profession he chose to explore.
Case in point, my favorite thing about Magic Mike is Matthew McConaghey’s performance as Dallas. Of all the male performers in the movie, he is the one that goes the farthest out into setting his sexual charisma completely on the loose. This was fairly early in the McConnaissance, and it’s still the best performance to come out of it. Truth be told, it’s been quite disappointing that this outstanding, natural, and immediate performance has been followed by such underwhelming work.
Thank God Soderbergh’s vision is in service of this performance, as evidenced in the long take in which McConaughey teaches the Kid some dance moves while standing in front of a mirror. Not only is it incredibly amusing, but it reflects on the movie’s views on using bodies, sexuality, and images as commodities in a broken economic landscape. It’s the best bit of acting in McConaughey’s career, and probably the best scene in all of Magic Mike.