Magic Mike wants you to have an unforgettable experience. To experience the full package. But for Mike (Channing Tatum) that means keeping two worlds apart. The fantasy and then the making of it. Since Mike first graced the stage and screen in 2012 the Magic Mike films have subverted expectations and often met with mixed results. A film that many anticipated to be just eye candy full of sculptured looking men in thongs, actually became another fascinating observation of struggling working class by Steven Soderbergh. A director who has found such fascination in the post-recession world used the sort of real life experiences of Tatum’s time as a male dancer and turned his film into a cautionary tale, but still made sure he had gorgeous men in thongs. Even as he stepped away from the directing chair for its much more of a party sequel “Magic Mike XXL” the film still carried ideas bigger than leather chaps and dove headfirst into male comradery at a healthy, but still complex, level. Now over ten years later, Soderbergh himself returns for one last dance with Mike in the appropriately titled MAGIC MIKE’S LAST DANCE which is the series at its ending but most importantly its most intimate and mature. Here is a finale that may end with its most explosive dance sequences yet, but its emotions and desires are specific to just two souls who never want the song to end.
Mike Lane is once again struggling to get by. We learn from a voiceover that the pandemic destroyed his furniture business and he has found himself out of the strip clubs, but instead working dead end bartending jobs. The magic is gone from his expressions, but he soon finds himself in the presence of socialite Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek Pinault) during a catering gig that soon turns into a very different form of transaction. Max (as she prefers to be called) is battling a soon to be divorce and when she hears of Mike’s talents she nervously wants to see his skillset. Hayek Pinault and Tatum have instant chemistry in a scene that is pivotal to the entire film’s expectations and desires. Max confesses that she just wants to feel heard and desired again. The passion from her life has been long gone, and while she is excited to see what Mike can do Hayek Pinault never plays it as desperate but rather someone wo deserves to finally be seen and held. Soderbergh then gives us a prolonged scene that can only be described as incredibly passionate while also being extremely hot. Gone is the hand grabbing of the first film, or the desire to impress of the second one. Instead is a greatly intimate moment and the first time there is real personal connection for Mike.
Satisfied with his talents Max quickly sweeps Mike off to London where she tells him her life is which includes her adopted daughter Zadie (Jemelia George) but promises him a job opportunity that he is meant for. A somewhat flip on the “Pretty Woman” story as well as hundreds of other romantic films, LAST DANCE brings excitement to the fantasy of Mike being a stranger in a strange land that involves, mansions, shopping sprees and a gorgeous woman taking care of it all. But there is something more detailed in allowing Max and women in general take the lead. Max sees something in Mike and recognizes his talents not just as a dancer, but as someone who has control. The script from Reid Carolin, (who wrote the previous two) recognizes what women have known for centuries, every man needs a woman to give them a proper push. Mike’s opportunity will require quite the push as he is being hired to put on a show at a respected theater that is currently hosting an old fashioned and often misogynistic play where a woman must choose between money and love. It isn’t hard to see the parallels in Max’s own life.
LAST DANCE doesn’t rely solely on the talents of Tatum and Hayek Pinault, but it is great to see a romantic film where the leads actually have chemistry. A low bar for sure, but in a time where sex of nearly any kind is missing from so many movies it is hard not to feel something for these two every time they get closer to expressing their honest feelings. A film that wants to observe honesty and power dynamics there is a great back and forth of wanting to regain power, but also being afraid to relinquish some even at the appropriate times. This is a love story and when one falls in love some autonomy is released, but what you gain in return is meant to bring back respect, compassion and most importantly actually being heard and having your partner respond to it. The film doesn’t feel the need to have that moment of one giant fight where one is wrong and one is right, but rather a collaboration of two people who both desire the same thing but also fear a potential negative outcome. To admit love even when you believe one loves back is still terrifying and LAST DANCE harness all of it.
If the Magic Mike films have always been about the fantasy, then LAST DANCE is the first one to harness it into reality. This is all due to its female centered story of repressed desires but even more so reclaiming power and being able to allow yourself everything. Even as the film reaches its showstopping finale (that also serves as a long advertisement for the real life live show that is hosted in Miami) it reclaims a narrative that while these men are here to service you, it should be the women that guide them to where they must go. Gone is the feeling that the men must show the women what they want and instead that these men will listen first thrust second. It is not that this is necessarily a growth in the technical storytelling of the three films, but rather a growth of the character of Mike. It would be far too fantastical and often pandering if Mike knew all this in the first film. After all it is a film about false success. Mike and his crew learn it slightly better in the sequel, but if love isn’t there it can almost seem impossible to fully understand it. That’s what makes LAST DANCE so endlessly intimate, it allows Mike to finally meet someone who can actually show him everything he preaches. This may be the last dance, but it will be a routine that should be practiced over and over again. Just remember to never break eye contact.
MAGIC MIKE’S LAST DANCE IS IN THEATERS EVERYWHERE