"We want our streets teeming with sensual echoes framed in smoky blue-grey hazes fueled by intoxicating spirits. We crave to hear the sweet murmurs of pleasure. We yearn for those breathless encounters on the precipice of peril and menace. Without all this, life would be nothing but a vast treadmill from birth to grave. Let's all be kids in a sandbox and act like 'boys and girls together' to borrow William Goldman's phrase, and suck the marrow out of the bones of this thing called life!"
I don't usually write about movies. But the criticism of Magic Mike XXL has reached the crescendo of a public issue. And, save for a few brave female commentators who admit liking the pure fun of watching male hunks and some great dancing, the general condemnation is breathtaking in its hypocrisy. As star Andie MacDowell stated, "It is reverse sexism." Maybe it's because throughout the film, women - and strong women at that - are in charge!
Full disclosure. I certainly did not set out to see the movie with an eye on writing this. But when a special lady friend - and her twenty year old female houseguest - asked me to come along for a lark, I certainly was not expecting much. I was wrong. And so are the critics if they bother to be honest.
Magic Mike XXL is a joyous, politically-incorrect, bachanallian paen to pure pleasure. And my God what a breath of fresh air that is in our stifling blue-haired, prohibit everything, discuss nothing recidivist era!
Sexploitation? Sure! And why not? Haven't men enjoyed that forever in the movies? Why shouldn't women have their turn? Great movie-making? No. It doesn't pretend to be anything more than a fun movie. But it has a lot of wit and deep honesty in Reid Carolin's script if anybody bothers to listen. The eloquent frustration expressed by the sublime MacDowell playing the "Nancy" character of having had "two wonderful daughters but only one penis" speaks for many women who may have missed out in large measure on the generation of sexual liberation and been stuck with one man in a boring marriage. The raucous scene that follows with Andie and her four friends partying with five male strippers is pure, unadulterated, elegant salaciousness, and with the women in charge sends a candid liberating message.
The strippers are brainless hunks? Hunks to be sure, so let's put our bitchy side away boys. But brainless? Not so much. Donald Glover plays his character "André" with sensitivity and intelligence and again Carolin's words should strike home to every man when André asks rhetorically, "Why don't guys just ask women what they want? Everybody will be happier." The film's message is that sex is not a command proposition or a conquest. It's a team sport where both partners need to know the nuances and subtleties of a great game that can produce explosively delightful results.
The scenes filmed in the Domino "subscription-based pleasure club" run by owner Rome played with steaming sensuality by Jada Pinkett Smith are almost Felliniesque in their Savannah lushness. Academy Award winning cinematographer Steven Soderbergh matches the Italian master and outdoes anything in Daniel Day-Lewis' star-studded "Nine" or in Nicole Kidman's "Moulin Rouge."
And the dance sequences choreographed by Alison Faulk between the male strippers and their female "queens" are as precise, energetic and technically flawless as anything in legendary Bob Fosse's autobiographical "All that Jazz."
In a time of prohibition we need movies like this because politicians need to know that we want to be left alone from their rules on our personal vices and virtues. Prohibition didn't work in the 1920s and it won't work today. And as for political and social correctness, as Julius Grey wrote, "Legislating niceness is not very nice." I'm glad that Magic Mike XXL has already grossed three times it's production cost. It's a hedonistic romp of sex, booze, cigarettes, drugs and beautiful men and women doing beautiful things.
I once wrote, "We want our streets teeming with sensual echoes framed in smoky blue-grey hazes fueled by intoxicating spirits. We crave to hear the sweet murmurs of pleasure. We yearn for those breathless encounters on the precipice of peril and menace. Without all this, life would be nothing but a vast treadmill from birth to grave." I wrote it in a column for a special issue we did called "Hot Town." That issue won national and provincial press awards for best overall paper, best opinion writing and best cover. People get the message!
So let the critics squak. Those who squak the loudest are probably those who have failed at achieving any pleasure in their lives. Go see the movie people and then go and love the heck out of your partners. And guys, we may not be able to be buffed like Joe Manganiello or dance like Channing Tatum, but we can all try their characters' sexual dexterity that made Amber Heard's "Zoe" character flush with passionate delight. Ask women what they want. Yours and your lady's lives will be better. Let's all be kids in a sandbox and act like "boys and girls together" to borrow William Goldman's phrase and suck the marrow out of the bones of this thing called life!