Magic Mike XXL ★★★★½

It's like Soderbergh (or his friend or something) made a 30's programmer, it's easy to mistake its casualness for being slight: because this film is infused with life everywhere. It's one of the best movies about work friends! I'd imagine the movie was made because one of the principles thought it would be interesting to explore stripper-life on the road. And the movie isn't necessarily work, it's about the little moments in work that make it pleasurable, about the humanity which will never cease to exist as strong as a capitalist structure is. And there are gloriously humane moments outside of this as well; for example the woman who smiles in the gas station. It was funny the first time, but upon revisiting it, it's quite beautiful. Or my favourite sequence in the movie, the scene at Andie McDowell's house, where the mood shifts from awkwardness to sheer elation for everyone.

Critiquing the film for the films supposed lack of "social critique" is unnecessary and pointless, first because this is a different film than the original, secondly because as a sequel the original has already established all these things. Why re-state them? In both cases, all we need (and get) are lines like "I only have one employee, and I can't even afford his healthcare." It reveals the "bro" world as a world of escapism. But all the love is genuine. There's also some of the most stunning images I've seen in a Soderbergh film (whether it was directed by him or not, he still DP'd it) like the scene where Tatum meets Amber Heard while peeing. They're both illuminated by single shafts of light, and as their bodies and mouths move they look like strange forms of light rather than human bodies (indeed we don't get a good look at Heard's face until the mansion scene) And Jada Pinkett Smith MC'ing. It's the same deal with her, except her shots are all in wides (referring to the finale only) and the effect is perhaps even more sensational. We can see the crowds of people, but the shaft of white light turns Smith into less human and more icon.

There's really no conflict whatsoever in this movie, and whatever there is, is resolved very quickly (Bomer and Tatum at the fire, for example). Love is just everywhere. Something I noticed this second viewing was that the film isn't as episodic as I thought, brief quips are introduced as though slight, and then reappear or transform into reality much later. It's a very clever, tight circular structure. Manganiello refusing to dispense with the firefighter routine, he comes up with a wedding routine in a molly induced high. An hour and a half later, after all of this has lost narrative importance, Manganiello suddenly makes the wedding routine a reality, both resolving his desire to prove to himself that he is capable of being creative, as well as reappropriating his past romantic hurts. Even more special, Tatum tells Heard that he will regain her smile. He makes this real too in the final performance. The movie ends a celebration, a curtain call ala Wagon Master! Ludacris chants "ALL I DO IS WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN" over this final montage. But it wasn't the competition which needed to be won. It was the smiles.

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