Pages Navigation Menu

"No matter where you go, there you are."


Magic Mike’s Last Dance is the Correct Title

Steven Soderbergh burst on to the independent movie scene with Sex, Lies and Videotape, a film lauded for the way it showed women talking about female desire, which was considered fresh and exciting in those days. But that was 1989, and a lot has changed since then, including the ability for female filmmakers to tell their own sexually-charged stories. Soderbergh continued exploring this theme, making The Girlfriend Experience (in 2009, starring Sasha Grey) and Channing Tatum’s semi-autobiographical stripper story Magic Mike (2012), two films that look at the financial commodification of bodies for sexual delight. One of those movies didn’t make back its budget. The other, and its 2015 sequel Magic Mike XXL (although not directed by Soderbergh) made a combined $270million, proving that sex sells only if its correctly packaged. Channing Tatum was the X factor here, a very watchable, accomplished actor and dancer. So why wouldn’t Soderbergh, who likes to finish off a trilogy, make another Magic Mike film, if Tatum is willing? There’s money to be made and bodies to be flaunted. But is there a story?

Magic Mike’s Last Dance is incredibly Soderberghian, but only tangentially related to Magic Mike. Through dance, gratification, wealth, a spinning-plates plot and gorgeous cinematography, Soderbergh creates another fantasy. It’s pacey and bold, but scratch beneath the surface and Last Dance has less depth than a jockstrap.

Now in his 40s, and down on his luck, Mike is bartending at a rich people charity function in Miami, for rich person Maxandra “Max” Mendoza (Salma Hayek Pinault) who is mid-divorce from an English rat. One of Max’s staff (the bride at the bachelorette party in the original Magic Mike) remembers Mike’s skills, so Max, a woman in need of some pleasure, agrees to pay him $6,000 just for a dance. And she gets a dance. In a nod to Pretty Woman, Max then mysteriously whisks Mike away to London where her “life is”. That life being her adopted daughter Zadie (Jemelia George), who acts as the film’s narrator, and Max’s personal butler-cum-driver Victor (Ayub Khan Din). Mike becomes part of Max’s revenge plot against her theatre-owning ex, helping turn a popular Wildean play into something a little bit livelier by using his particular set of skills.

The rest of the story is unimportant, and frankly, ludicrous, bringing in fastidious theatrical rule makers, street dancers, bus gyrating and the first world perils of being wealthy and lonely. The film is supposed to be a love story and showcase female empowerment, but fails miserably at both. Tatum is a brilliant lynchpin and audience avatar, completely baffled by the events unfolding around him, but he’s a good sport who nevertheless continues grinding away. But Hayek Pinault is parroting a lot of Soderbergh speech which doesn’t fit her vibe – at one point Max even shouts “I am supposed to be an empowered female” then runs to a man to solve her problems. Worst of all, Soderbergh’s depiction of the London theatre scene is either ignorant or pure trolling.

BUT, by ignoring these issues and looking at the film as pure spectacle, a silly, fun time can be had. The dance numbers are really cool and Last Dance has a much better handle on how a romantic comedy works than many other films (although the twist is that the real love story is between Max and Victor).

Magic Mike’s Last Dance feels just like a strip show, beautiful to gaze at while bearing no resemblance to reality. Mike says “the ultimate submission is asking for permission,” but I don’t remember giving it. Do you?

Previous PostNext Post

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.