Magic Mike dropped in theatres a few weeks ago, pleasuring the female masses and making its way to second place on the NZ Box Office (below The Dark Knight Rises). Two of our writers (Rose Matafeo, who saw it of her own free will, and Liam Maguren, who had no say in the matter) had a chat about the film, discussing filmmaking techniques, Channing Tatum’s face and penis pumps. Though they try their best to keep spoilers to a minimum, it’ll help to have seen the movie first.
LIAM: So, you left early.
ROSE: Yeah, I did. And not because I was going to get a cheese pizza. OK so first of all, this is a movie I probably like. “Sign me up! Love the idea!” Though the trailer was kind of a warning for me: just a lot of Rihanna and people in bikinis and stuff. I don’t want sound like a creep but the male stripping scenes were the best part.
LIAM: So it sold you on its selling point?
ROSE: Yeah it did.
LIAM: Well that’s a positive right?
LIAM: It’s like going to Transformers and seeing shit blow up.
ROSE: Exactly. So that was good. I do have a complaint: the music was loud for those scenes. It was awkward, and I saw it in a cinema with mostly girls.
LIAM: Well, it wasn’t going to be a cinema full of dudes*.
*Liam ignorantly forgets the homosexual crowd
ROSE: There weren’t many people in my screening and it was the opening day. The story was – I didn’t see the end so I don’t fully know – but it was just so boring to me, how Channing Tatum wants to make this furniture out of used helium cans and glass.
LIAM: I believe they call it ‘entrepreneuring’ because that’s supposed to make it not sound boring.
ROSE: Exactly. I have to say, I wouldn’t have any of that furniture at my house, and then there’s him trying to get a bank loan… Basically, if you took out the male stripping scenes in Magic Mike, it would be a nothing*, really.
*yes, a nothing
ROSE: Although, when he went for the bank loan it was kind of funny because he still looked like a stripper. I had a sneaking suspicion that he was going to take his clothes off.
LIAM: You could see the buttons on his business shirt just looking for an excuse to pop off.
ROSE: Exactly, just bulging out of it.
LIAM AS CHANNING TATUM: “I’ve got a deal for YOU.”*
ROSE: I know.
*sounded funnier in his head
ROSE: I was just so nervous like, “did she hire a stripper for the office?”
LIAM: Or for herself, with no one else around.
ROSE: Yeah, yeah. And also, maybe it’s a Soderbergh thing, but it’s kind of fashionable these days, like with David Fincher, to have a real bleak grading to a film.
LIAM: I wondered how many times Soderbergh used natural lighting.
ROSE: I know, like the scene where they go out to that island for the 4th of July. It just looked real sad… maybe that was the point.
LIAM: I better ask you: at what point did you walk out to get a cheese pizza? What was the last thing that happened?
ROSE: Alex Pettyfer and Channing Tatum had just come from the sorority house and Pettyfer was like,
ROSE AS ALEX PETTYFER: “Oh yeah! We just got away from them!”
ROSE: and Channing Tatum’s like,
ROSE AS ALEX PETTYFER: “No, you did a bad thing!”
LIAM: Oh OK, so that was about half an hour from the end.
ROSE: Yeah, what happens?*
*Liam proceeds to fill Rose in on the ending
LIAM: Basically, it got a hell-of-a-lot* darker from there.
ROSE: Dang! It’s a shame I left before something actually happened. Well, from what I saw, I did enjoy the Matthew McConaughey strip scene.
LIAM: The dude was working it.
ROSE: Oh man, he was fun. He was funny because it was just like seeing an older version of his character from Dazed and Confused, David Wooderson. It was basically like seeing a sequel to that character.
LIAM: I made a stunning observation about Matthew McConaughey…
LIAM: Recently, he does all his best acting when he’s a wearing cowboy hat.
ROSE: Uh huh.
*Liam is stunned by Rose’s lack of being stunned
ROSE: And that scene where he’s teaching his Alex Pettyfer how to strip, that was so funny because he looked like he had a frame of a woman, with those short shorts and stuff*.
*‘stuff’ meaning a neon-yellow tank-top and a bandana normally worn by Hispanic housemaids
ROSE: They had really long scenes in the movies which made me think it might have been better as a play.
LIAM’S BRAIN: Magic Mike: The Musical?*
ROSE: And Channing Tatum… I’ve never found him attractive, in the face…
LIAM: But attractive in the…*
*innuendo about his endo
ROSE: Yeah… yeah… maybe… I don’t know*.
ROSE: But he is endearing, he is affable because he’s got a good sense of comedic timing.
LIAM: Well, I haven’t seen 21 Jump Street but I had never felt like the guy had broken out into an actual actor until now. He was really, really likable in this. Although, Soderbergh’s good at dealing with non-actors. Except for Cody Horn.
ROSE: She was nothing.
LIAM: She was terrible.
ROSE: Oh my God, she was horrible right? Her main facial expression comes across as like,
ROSE: She was just wincing the whole time and her mouth was like,
LIAM: People should stop giving Kristen Stewart shit from now on* if this girl is going to keep acting.
*he’s joking, of course you can
ROSE: She was an appalling love interest.
LIAM: She had no interest at all.
ROSE: Yeah absolutely, she was a nothing character and not thought through at all. There was no, like…
LIAM: There was no chemistry.
ROSE: There was no chemistry.
LIAM: That’s the funny thing though: Channing Tatum is trying his best to make their acting relationship work and usually it would be the other way round*.
*e.g. The Vow
ROSE: Yeah exactly, that wasn’t interesting, so it was hard to watch. They should have cast someone with something about them. As for Alex Pettyfer… for one, he has weird tattoos, and they are all real I found out.
LIAM: What are they?
ROSE: Heaps of them are about his ex girlfriends like Diana Agron, who was in I Am Number Four. And so he also has one saying ‘Emma’ as in Emma Roberts –
LIAM: Like a kill-list?
ROSE: Just like a kill-list of girls. Apparently they didn’t get on, Channing and Alex, which I can believe because I feel like Alex Pettyfer was just really unlikeable.
LIAM: Sounds like life imitating art.
ROSE: Yeah, his character wasn’t that likeable.
LIAM: Well, I can tell you that he doesn’t become likable in the end.
ROSE: I was hoping he would be the thing that I could latch onto* but as far as the other male strippers goes… this is basically what I focused on most.
*potential sex joke missed
ROSE: Really funny and weird to see the guy from like CSI Miami* stripping.
*his actual name’s Adam Rodriguez, but that’s not important
ROSE: And when he shakes his ass, it’s really like –
LIAM: I wouldn’t say ‘shaking’ as it’s more ‘throbbing’…
ROSE: ‘Throbbing’ his ass.
LIAM: …like a water mattress.
ROSE: It was uh… [chuckles], it was uh, it was… pretty great*.
ROSE: The guy who played Tarzan is actually a professional wrestler, and he was funny to watch during the dances where he clearly had no idea what he was doing. Matt Bomer was great. I used to love him in Tru Calling, he was the love interest.
LIAM: I love how you loved Tru Calling.
ROSE: I loved Tru Calling, ‘cause it was on a Friday night at 7.30 and I had nothing to do on Friday night at 7.30 at the time when it was playing. And I loved Matt in that. But then I recently found out that he was gay. And I was like “I don’t know how to feel about this, this being that I love you but they’re actually gay.”
LIAM: You can still keep the fantasy going.
ROSE: Exactly. The other guy, the highlight though was the dude from True Blood, I don’t know if you watch True Blood but –
LIAM: I watched like the first season, back when it was actually good, before it became sort of like soft-core porn for the Twilight crowd.
ROSE: Yeah, I think he’s a werewolf in True Blood. I think his name’s like Joe… Mangiaaaaaaa…neo* or something.
*Manganiello, again, not important
ROSE: But he was great because he actually looked like a male stripper, and impressive one at that. And he’s got great hair so he was probably my favourite out of all*.
*his character’s also called Big Dick Richie, the stripper with the big dick. Just sayin’.
ROSE: Another highlight: Matthew McConaughey’s flaming leather doo-rag.
LIAM: So aside from throbbing ass-cheeks and Matthew McConaughey’s doo-rag, was there anything else you liked about the film?
ROSE: I think it was interesting, at least for me, to see a comedic drama about male stripping because afterwards, it made me think, you wouldn’t be able to make a mainstream movie these days about female strippers in a way that doesn’t seem totally scumbaggy, right?
LIAM: Yeah, you couldn’t glorify it the way Magic Mike did.
LIAM: If they were to make a drama about female strippers, they’d probably set it in a darker, more depressing world.
ROSE: But it’s funny and kinda shit that female strippers can’t have a story like that, that no-one’s willing to tell that kind of story because they’d be like,
ROSE AS DISGRUNTLED P.C. MOVIE-GOER: Oh my God! You can’t do that!
LIAM AS DISGRUNTLED P.C. MOVIE-GOES: A female stripper with a good life!? That doesn’t exist!
ROSE: Yeah, I know. I just think of all of the stripper characters I’ve seen in recent movies are just completely vacant.
LIAM: They usually do some prostitution on the side to pay for their meth-smoking baby’s drug habits.
ROSE: Exactly. It’s a weird thing. I was like “is this OK that I’m watching a film about male strippers?” And then I got to thinking a lot about stripping in general. It was a big discussion in my own head.
LIAM: That’s why I dug the story in it because, at least for Alex Pettyfer’s character, it showed the result of what means to overplay a sense of masculinity, especially when you’re presented into the world of male stripping, having girls lapping you up, thinking like you’re on top of the world. Channing Tatum’ character managed to control that testosterone.
ROSE: Because Alex was even like kissing the girls at the start. I was like “Whoa, don’t do that.” It was kind of creepy. I was talking to someone (at a wedding, for some reason) and male strippers came up. Apparently, there’s only one full-time male stripper in Auckland
LIAM: One full-time, huh?
ROSE: Yeah, it’s just this one guy. I mean it might be an untapped market, I don’t know.
*Liam considers a career change.
LIAM: That means he’s got to put in 40 hours a week?
ROSE: Exactly. As you were saying, it gets darker in tone near the end, yet this was supposedly a ‘chicks at the flicks’ type of event. But with Magic Mike I was like, “this isn’t really a feel-good movie.” I think The Full Monty’s probably more feel-good than this. It’s a story that perhaps wouldn’t actually appeal to the female audience that it’s targeted at.
LIAM: I think secretly it’s trying to appeal to both females who just want to see guys strip and people who want a grounded story with an indie vibe. It’s a weird juxtaposition, especially with Soderbergh’s style of having the camera mingle around the actors in one shot and suddenly throwing you into this wild colourful world of a male strip club. I’m not entirely convinced that that worked, even though I liked the scenes that didn’t involve a thong and dubstep.
ROSE: See, it’s funny that you didn’t like the stripping scenes and that they were the only parts I was interested in (like an absolute creep) and yet I didn’t take to the drama and you did. I was only really interested in the stripping because perhaps I went into the movie thinking that that was all it was going to be. I would’ve been much more comfortable if it were just a light-hearted comedic film with male strippers. But I guess there’s that responsibility that if you were going to talk about an industry that is so sordid after and has all that dark shit in it that you can’t really just leave that out.
LIAM: Well, it is based on Channing Tatum’s real world experience apparently, so I can see them starting off as making the film about the more dark world of male strippers or, well, let’s not say ‘dark world’, more like getting a real taste of what it’s like being in that industry. Then they had to sell it as being a light-hearted girls-night-out watching guys strip.
ROSE: Do you think there’s a bit of a strange double standard going on? Like, Demi Moore in Striptease: the first thing presented to you about her is that she’s a stripper who is a really nice person, the stripper with a heart of gold. But in Magic Mike, Channing Tatum’s presented as an entrepreneur, who strips. Stripping is his secondary trait rather than the main thing about him.
LIAM: Yeah, absolutely. Also, if you were going to do a movie that glorified the world of female strippers then you’ll be accused of sexual objectification.
LIAM: You’d have the feminists outside your office because, you know, that’s what all feminists do*.
ROSE: Burning their bras…
LIAM: Setting their armpit hair on fire…
ROSE: It is kind of a sneakily hefty topic for a mainstream chick flick as it were. I’m a big expert on ‘the chick flick’ and this is certainly not a chick flick. In some ways, this is a film for guys.
LIAM: In a sneaky way, it kind of is, because at the start when they show Channing Tatum’s ass, they immediately show some awesome Olivia Munn boobage.
ROSE: Yeah. It should be one for the guys too, but guys aren’t going to see it.
LIAM: I reckon it’ll surprise boyfriends who are reluctantly dragged along by their girlfriends.
ROSE: It is a film for guys because it never passed a Bachdel test.
LIAM: No it didn’t.
ROSE: No, absolutely not.*
*turns out it actually does (barely)
ROSE: I feel like it’s been targeted wrong crowd but if it didn’t aim strictly for that female audience then it wouldn’t have made any money.
LIAM: Your only hope for recognizing it to be a smart movie is if you saw Soderbergh’s name attached to it, which is what gave me hope going into that screening. Oh there’s another thing, never in the strip club crowd did I see a group of fat chicks.
ROSE: There was one woman, but she wasn’t even fat.
LIAM: Maybe chubbish but not fat.
ROSE: Yeah, and she was just a one-off “ha-ha” joke. In fact, all the female characters were kind of disposable. Like those girls they picked up at the start. I felt sorry for them.
LIAM: Weird thing is, it was her 21st birthday and she didn’t seem to be surrounded by many friends. It was just that one other chick.
ROSE: Yeah, just that one other chick.
LIAM: That’s a very, very sad life she must lead.
ROSE: I know, it was sad.
LIAM: But hey, she got laid by an amateur stripper, so kudos to her.
ROSE: Also with that scene, I found it funny because, personally, if I meet a random guy at the bar, even if he was slightly good looking, if one of his friends came up to me and passed me a flyer for male strip club chances are I’d probably go “That’s weird, no thanks” and leave. But these girls were like “Yeah, this is awesome.”*
*because drunk 21-year-old girls are never that loose
LIAM: Yeah, but this isn’t some guy. This is The Tatum.
ROSE: Yes, it is The Bloody Tatum.
LIAM: Tell you what though, Channing is one hell of a dancer.
ROSE: Oh he’s great.
LIAM: When he came on stage*, I was actually enjoying it, because holy shit that guy can move.
*another potential sex joke missed
ROSE: In those scenes though, he did look like he had a bucket of fake tan which looked really strange. For some reason, Channing Tatum he looks like he needs chap stick because his lips are the same colour as his face. I don’t know where his lips end and his face begins.
LIAM: A hole just appears and sounds are made.
ROSE: Another funny thing that happened during those stripping scene was that I was with two friends and a half-empty cinema. We were nervously laughing like,*
*Rose imitates the nervous laughter, sounding suspiciously familiar to the way she responded to Liam’s sexist feminist jokes
ROSE: Just so nervous and I was wondering “Why are we laughing? Why are we acting nervous?” Perhaps because it’s not appropriate for a woman to be like,
ROSE IMITATING A MAN AT A STRIP CLUB: Yeah, take it off.
ROSE: You know? It’s this real mix of being uncomfortable and sort of being like “Aw yeah, that’s cool.”
LIAM: Especially when most of the audience fully well knew they paid to see men strip.
ROSE: Exactly. It’s funny because it’s a movie that doesn’t cater to a female audience in the typical way, you know? There’s no-one with the dreamy eyes, no Colin Firth from Bridget Jones’ Diary. Just Channing Tatum.
LIAM: I thought Tatum had charm in this, though.
ROSE: Yeah, I thought he had some charm too. I would like to see a sequel with one of the other strippers.
LIAM: Which one?
ROSE: The one from True Blood, of course. The part where he was like pumping his dick that was hilarious.
LIAM: I don’t trust dick pumps. Anything that you can inflate has a risk of popping.
ROSE: It reminded me of Austin Powers.
LIAM: I think the irony of this entire discussion is that I think I enjoyed Magic Mike more than you did.
ROSE: I know yeah! That’s the thing. That is quite funny.
Amusing end statistics:
Rose says ‘Exactly’ 11 times.
Liam discriminated against: women, feminists, homosexual men, Tru Calling fans