This is an entertaining and engaging comedy drama about male strippers during the financial crisis. It’s sort of an oblique comment on the consequences of the financial crisis and it’s fascinating that Channing Tatum wanting to star in a movie about his life as a stripper before he got famous turned into this film.
The film does some interesting things, like starting with Tatum’s character and but quickly going to Pettyfer’s character, the audience surrogate, in a way that you’re not expecting. And it subverts other conventions, like how the “up and coming” challenger to the thrown is lacking in ambition and just sort of fails his way into his starring role. (There might be some subtle commentary on success in America here.) Soderbergh is rarely boring and here he (or the script) plays with the story in ways we don’t necessarily expect. And, as usual, Soderbegh does some strange palette stuff and the film is super washed out (which feels like a bit of a Florida film cliche at this point but it works).
It’s a pretty funny movie, until it gets serious. It’s certainly more funny than I thought it would be. (I’m not sure I realized it was at least part comedy.) And a huge part of how effective it is as a story hinges on how entertaining it is early.
For a fairly conventional story, it’s pretty well told. And it feels “real.” I particularly like the way Tatum’s character cannot talk well when he’s nervous and his big speech is a mess and feels like what would actually happen when a stripper tried to win over a nursing assistant.
I really don’t like Pettyfer’s character, though I think his arc is pretty interesting from a plot standpoint. I feel like we never really know him, he goes from audience surrogate to plot device and it feels like we just never get a sense of his internal life. Maybe it’s the actor – I’m not really familiar with him – but the character feels like a pretty weak point to the movie.
But, on the whole, I think it’s a pretty good exploration of what people needed to do for money during the financial crisis which manages to be more entertaining (and more subtle in its real subject matter) than most films explicitly about the crisis.