My One Problem With Magic Mike

Magic Mike Dancers

I like Magic Mike. I think it is an engaging and interesting film and not just because of the all the beautiful sweaty naked men. There is some really beautiful and interesting cinematography. The film has authentic dialogue and characters. All of this you can see in this clip where Matthew McConaughey’s Dallas is teaching Alex Pettyfer’s Adam how to dance.

That being said, I think that there is a huge flaw with Magic Mike. It has to do with the fact that, intentionally or not, the film has two protagonist; Channing Tattum’s Mike and Adam.

I’ve written in a previous post about narrative structure, and I suggest that you read it if you don’t know anything about it. I also wrote in my last post about how to end a film. You should check that one out too. The gist of that post is that is that good endings in films come from beginnings. The beginning sets up the main conflict(s) for the protagonist(s) and the ending resolve them.

The first scene of the film the audience is introduced to Mike. They see him waking up from a one night stand with a girl he has a loose relationship with and another girl who is a stranger. From this scene, the audience learns that Mike is tiring of this lifestyle and is looking for more of a romantic connection. Also, that he has a professional dream of making custom furniture that he hasn’t achieved. Right after, the audience sees Adam for the first time showing up at one of Mike’s jobs. Then two scenes later we just see Adam without Mike interacting with his sister and her boyfriend. The audience learns that Adams has recently flunked out of college and is looking for money and a purpose. Seeing Mike and Adam, both early in the film and both with a clear conflict leads the audience to believe that both of them are the film’s protagonist. Adam’s role as a protagonist is further reinforced once the pair meets up again and Mike takes Adam to his strip club. This is the first time we see the strip club and through camera angles and shots, it implies that we are seeing this place through Adam’s point of view. It’s unusual to get a shot from the point of view of a character if he isn’t the protagonist.

Channing and Alex Shirtless

This photo is absolutely necessary in this post

The problem with the film is that the film only resolved the conflicts of one of the protagonists. Mike ends up starting a relationship with Cody Horn’s Brooke (Adam’s sister) and quits stripping to follow his dreams of making furniture. The follow-his-dreams-part is never explicitly said, but it is implied. Adam is absent from the end film. In fact, the audience doesn’t know much about what happens to Adam after the incident with the drug dealers. We know that he’s going to move Miami, but we are unsure of whether or not he’s found a purpose. His omission from the ending of the film, along with the lack of resolution of his story line isn’t satisfying. It impoverishes the ending of the film. It is the huge flaw with Magic Mike. If Adam had been a supporting character, or had a scene closer to the end that resolved his story line, it would have been a much strong film. As it is, it’s still a charming film that features some wonderful cinematography and characters. And some of the best scenes of beautiful celebrities gyrating. Here’s a video of the dancing that you’ve been waiting for. You’ve earned it.

If you agree with me or have a different opinion on the film, please leave comments. I would love to hear your thoughts.

4 comments

  1. mknaydan · December 2, 2014

    Jojo, I love your analysis of this movie. I too remember feeling unfulfilled with the ending: a sort of “That’s it?!” moment of incredulousness. That being said, I don’t think the point of the film is its narrative ;). I’d love to hear more about what you think about the cinematography. That’s not really something I paid particular attention to when I saw the movie in theaters, but the clip you show with Matthew McConaughey and Alex Pettyfer does have a very interesting camera angle and use of the mirror. It’s also hilarious, which is one of the things that I loved about the film. Very engaging blog post! I love your blogger voice.

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    • gilligaj · December 17, 2014

      Thanks for commenting. I really appreciate your kind words. Please don’t take any offense in what I’m about to say. I think the point of all films is the narrative. Especially since, narrative structure is more rigid in film than most mediums. I get your point but I really don’t like to dismiss films based on subject matter. Anyway, thanks again for commenting.

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  2. pwhalen15 · December 4, 2014

    i’ve seen this movie two or three times, and not once had I ever realized the problem you brought up with there being two protagonists. I just sort of accepted the fact that Alex Pettyfer’s character didn’t get a resolution, and Channing Tatum’s character got an assumed happy ending. I definitely think that this has to do with the fact that when promotion the movie, the media portrayed this as a movie that was just based off of Channing Tatum’s character. I didn’t even know of Adam until I watched the movie, because he wasn’t what I was focused on during the hype of this film.

    You brought up a lot of interesting points and I really liked this post!

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    • gilligaj · December 17, 2014

      Thanks for commenting. I didn’t mention this in the post, because I didn’t want to make it to long but I don’t think that Alex Pettyfer’s character was intended to be a protagonist. When introducing a new and unfamiliar environment (wizarding school, secret society of assassins, amusement park) to an audience, a writing trick to get a lot of exposition from the characters and have it not feel forced, is to introduce a new character. For example, in Inception Christopher Nolan created Ellen Page’s character simple so that the audience can learn how dream sharing works. I’m pretty sure that what was intended with Alex’s character, but they just gave him to much screen time without Channing Tatum’s character in the scene and he became a protagonist. It’s funny writing can get away from you like that.

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