Friday, August 3, 2012

Magic Mike

*WARNING: contains spoilers.

It might seem I'm grasping at the obscure in order to tie in some relevance to this review of Magic Mike, but I do believe there is a deeper meaning to be consumed in this coming of age film.

Needless to say I've been a Chatum fan (a term I've coined myself, think Brangelina, Tomkat - although no more - and all the other Hollywood celeb acronyms), closely following his career for years since he sprung up and caught my attention with his hood gone good dance moves in Step Up.

Chatum really comes into his own in this film and shows his acting repertoire goes well beyond taking his top off, pulling off some sick dance moves and "just being quiet and looking pretty". His somewhat awkwardness showcased in previous films such as Dear John and G.I. Joe is totally stripped away...pun he digs deep and delivers a highly emotional and authentic performance. Not only does his character Mike come of age during this film, Chatum does in real life too. Viewers can sense his confidence on screen, owning it and making the character his own. Perhaps its due to the fact that he sunk his own cash into making and producing this film. Coupled with having worked as a stripper for some months in his early teens in a past life, meaning for the first time in a while, he can truly relate to the role .

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The film although it might seem fun, light, entertaining on the surface and another excuse for Matthew McConaughey to appear on screen without a top, targeted to the lonely/horny/all of the above female (and man friendly male) souls out there looking for some eye candy, takes the viewer through two very personal and unique experiences. Almost like a before and after.

Mike is a thirty year old stripper working multiple day jobs to save enough money to open up a custom furniture design business, the tally currently at $13K. He's really good with his hands. His ideal, the thing he'd like to do every day that will make him happy is live by the beach and design one-off furniture pieces. He has some obstacles to overcome: a bad credit rating, cash money earned under the table which makes it hard to legitimise and prove to the bank he gets a regular stream of income to be able to service a loan for his business. If only big bad banks believed in the little guy with the big dream.

Insert the Kid, a nineteen year old college scholarship drop out looking for his life's purpose and to earn a quick buck doing minimal work (sound familiar Gen Y'ers?) and mooching off his sister, sleeping on her couch. Seriously this dude can't even slap a hundred bucks together to get a decent pair of shoes. It's tough out there. He collides with Mike who takes him under his wing and shows him the ropes of the male stripping industry. Maybe Mike sees a little of himself in the Kid, ten years ago.

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The Kid is trying to find his way in life and to learn to stand on his own two feet. His lesson is that the world doesn't owe him shit and that he has to work and pay his dues, as well as deal with the consequences of his actions. He seems to take it in his stride yet the overarching theme is that he'll do whatever he feels like doing, no matter how much his older sister or Mike for that matter try to mother him. There's some lessons that you just have to learn on your own. Pain, disappointment and all, they can't be taught.

Mike on the other hand being the Kid's senior has learned many of those lessons already. He's on the cusp of becoming a real man. The stripping business is a dirty, gritty unsustainable gravy train that will last only until you're young and fit enough to pull it off. Then it's time for the thong to be hung up in retirement. Mike knows this, he's just sticking to the plan until the moment when - he has more money, things change, life hands him a bone. He wants more. He knows there's more to life than partying all night, drugs, drinking, sleeping the day away and an endless string of women with no name.

He's had the same plan surrounding his custom furniture business for six years and when it goes bust for various reasons, he has to take stock, regroup and readjust his strategy in order to build a semblance of some sort of a real life which could include a girlfriend and a "normal" day job. The film eludes to this but never really answers it, there's no need to. He throws in the stripping towel (thong actually) and runs to the Kid's sister who not only has been looking out for her little brother but also believes that Mike deserves something better as well. It's only really up to Mike now to also believe that he deserves that too.

Life will throw you a spanner in the works no matter how hard you work or how much you plan and try to manage risk. The point is what you do with that - do you start building again or watch the mutha f*cka burn?

The film ends with the promise of change, a better life, starting fresh. They decide to go for breakfast. Morning, the start of a brand new day and a brand new life.

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