I was just watching Magic Mike this past weekend, trying to convince my boyfriend to see the sequel because the original was far better than it had any right to be, because it was a completely different film than any description of it might suggest. You hear the words "Channing Tatum male stripper drama" and you can't help but get a certain image in your head. Especially if you've seen clips of Matthew McConaughey's legendary performance. But Reid Carolin's script and Steven Soderbergh's direction subvert that at practically every turn. Magic Mike, based on Tatum's experience as a male stripper, is actually a whopper of a character study. That's probably because Tatum really KNOWS these people. Like, knows them on a deeper level than they probably know themselves. Constantly up on the take, these are "bros" who might aspire to something more... or would, if they had any ambition to change their lives or, you know, actually DO anything.
And the film is full of shots of people watching things - be they half-naked people or Joe Manganiello's giant dick in a penis pump or something else entirely. It comes close to being an indictment of the audience and their expectations/demands. Sort of, "Oh, you thought this was going to be a hootin'-hollerin' good time? An easy-breezy summer skin flick? How dare you expect so little of us! Oh we'll give you what you want, but you may not want it when we do."
|Best Shot Runner-up; we've never seen dance from this angle before!|
And so all of this is why I chose this as my Best Shot. When Cody Horn's Brooke shows up at the revue to see if what her brother Adam (Alex Pettyfer, perfectly cast for once in his life) told her about his new job was actually real, she doesn't know what to expect. And when his new best friend/mentor Mike tells her to stay and watch the rest of the show, she's dismissive. But then as she's about to leave, she hears the crowd go wild for Dallas's intro for "Magic" Mike. And then Ginuwine's "Pony" starts up, and Mike starts dancing, and she can't quite look away.
I don't think there's been a single shot in recent times that so thoroughly shows the audience their reaction to watching the movie in which it takes place. It's genius, and completely essential to the film, giving us all that we need to see that maybe Brooke isn't a complete stick in the mud, and that she and Mike might actually be good for each other. It's the key to the whole movie: Screw up this moment, and the film fails. But it's Soderbergh, so he knows how important this moment it is and nails it. Far be it from me to advocate taking time away from watching Channing Tatum dance, but this shot is worth it.