Steven Soderbergh is back at the helm of the Magic Mike franchise, and somehow him not directing the sequel puts him at a disadvantage. It’s misleading to call Magic Mike XXL outright not a Soderbergh movie, because Soderbergh was still the one controlling what went into the camera (the actual director, Gregory Jacobs, is his longtime 1st AD and specializes, based on his three features, in doing a good Soderbergh impression) and how the footage was then constructed in the edit, and it looks exactly like every other digital-era Soderbergh (except even more beautiful and colorful), but it’s also obvious on the face of it that XXL was a movie Soderbergh would struggle with if he was in the driver’s seat. The first Magic Mike was a chill hangout movie, but its overall shape was one of Soderbergh’s glum late-capitalist portraits, where Betsy Brandt denying Channing Tatum a bank loan is more of a setpiece than many of the stripping scenes. Soderbergh can do this stuff in his sleep and this is a very good example of his form, though held back from greatness by a cliched third-act turn to drugs (which Soderbergh at least plusses with some incredible visuals, including the close-up that cemented Riley Keough as a star) and Alex Pettyfer’s smug inexpressiveness as Tatum’s protege (though it fits his dickish character, and he has a pretty funny Schwarzenegger impression). There’s no doubt that women who showed up expecting wall-to-wall stripping were disappointed to instead get Soderbergh’s second movie about selling sex in a down economy, I’ll never forget the woman in my theater who reacted to its first bit of Soderbergh structural trickery with “that was weird”. It could be seen as a concession to those disappointed voices that the Soderbergh-less(ish) XXL lets the economic worries be mostly subtextual (though there’s still the image of women getting their big bills converted to singles for the purpose of G-string-stuffing, the most Soderberghy detail in the whole thing), instead being a plot-free road trip movie about five magical strippers who improve the lives of everyone who encounters them. Writer Reid Carolin doubles down on the endearing, bro-y conversations that gave the first one its flavor, and Gregory Jacobs brings a warmer, looser touch than Soderbergh’s dreaded “cold” precision. Most importantly, both men provide an optimism that simply wasn’t there for Soderbergh at that time, the apex of his frustration with the studio system that led to that infamous “retirement”. Soderbergh saw Magic Mike as an artist hamstrung by an industry that’s squeezing him out, while XXL sees Mike and all his friends as artists who can change the world just by making a single woman smile. It’s no surprise that many of XXL‘s biggest boosters aren’t otherwise big Soderbergh fans, they love it for its freedom from many of the conventions of Soderbergh’s style and tone. And it’s also no surprise that those voices aren’t so hot on Magic Mike’s Last Dance, because it’s never less than blindingly obvious who’s in the director’s seat this time. Soderbergh retains many of the new directions that XXL took from the original, but mostly he just makes a Soderbergh movie: a masterful but tossed-off doodle that’s much more than it seems to be.
For poor Mike Lane and his furniture business, the pandemic finished for good what the recession had made a day-to-day struggle. He’s now taken a job as a bartender in Miami, the same distant “paradise” he fled from at the end of the first movie. His prospects seem nonexistent but on his first shift on his first day he meets Max (Salma Hayek (Pinault)), a wealthy woman with a dead marriage and a lot of pent-up sexual frustration. She hears about his other former job and asks for a lap dance. He retired from all that awhile ago but he accepts, giving her a dance that looks, as he describes another dance later, “more like fucking than dancing.” But it looks like beautiful, aggressive, and oddly elegiac fucking, a feat of choreography and acrobatics not unlike Gina Carano and Michael Fassbender destroying their hotel room in Haywire (except Mike makes sure to move all the breakable objects out of his way). Soderbergh has blown his money shot early, where in the world is he going from here?
He’s going to jolly old London, it turns out. Mike gets brought along by a forever-in-his-debt Max to direct a strip revue at the theatre she’s inherited from her husband, kicking out the stuffy old show (with the appropriately overwrought name Isabel Ascendant) that’s been taking up space there for years. From here, on the most literal level, this becomes a culture-clash rom-com where the working-class guy from Florida is gonna show the snobby theatre Brits just what a visionary he is. It is successful on this level because it’s very funny, especially with first-time film actor Jemelia George delivering great snark as Max’s adopted daughter and playwright Ayub Khan-Din giving the best “sassy butler” performance in ages. And most importantly, Tatum and Hayek sizzle together like they need to, and not just when they’re grinding on each other. Tatum is terrific across all the Magic Mikes but this is the first one that’s pushed him out of his comfort zone, no longer giving him a like-minded, mumbly love interest like Cody Horn or Amber Heard (who were both great at that, Horn especially) but a blustery and passionate sparring partner, the unstoppable force to his immovable object. It’s touching and entirely realistic that Tatum’s quiet puppy-dog charm could melt the heart of someone so stubborn and brash, but moony eyes alone won’t make him keep up with Hayek’s bravado, he needs to meet her on her level lest he gets blown off the screen. And he does, all while Hayek masterfully calibrates her brio to make sense next to Tatum’s ever-unshowy charisma. You could take nothing from this movie except that opposites attract and that it’s good to see hot movie stars romancing each other, and you would come out completely satisfied.
You can watch this as Soderbergh’s Pretty Woman riff and enjoy it very much (I’d be thrilled if he makes Ayub Khan-Din his Hector Elizondo), but Garry Marshall was not this interested in the financials of the Gere-Roberts romance. This is yet another late Soderbergh “capitalism is Hell” movie, where important scenes will play out while a TV behind the characters is prominently playing a Bloomberg report on Adidas stock. Like The Girlfriend Experience, the focus is on capitalism as a particularly insidious boys club, with Max’s soon-to-be ex-husband wielding his monetary power over her to keep her from living the life she wants to. Like any good “let’s put on a show!” movie, there are many obstacles thrown Mike and Max’s way, but the obstacles are meaningless bureaucratic ones whose only purpose is to spite Max, it doesn’t actually matter that the stage is three inches too high. Max certainly isn’t innocent in all this deal-making, at least part of Mike’s initial desire to go with her is because of a substantial payout hanging over his head should he follow her instructions. But as explained in George’s unabashedly academic voice-over, the gut-level, purely personal connection of dance, like the one Mike and Max shared, might be what liberates us from the concerns of the capital world, what encourages us to shun the system and be our best selves together. This is yet more Soderbergh egghead commentary, we’re not too far from Girlfriend Experience being mostly conversations about the ’08 election. But Soderbergh intellectual exercises have a way of also being the most emotional Soderbergh movies, and all the zoning laws and transactional relationships are given a very affecting emotional spine by the simple, oft-repeated question of “will she marry for love or money?”. For all of Soderbergh’s obsession with finances, he knows it would be shameful to pick anything but love.
Max is the key to the most important thing Dance retains from XXL, its centralized study of female pleasure, mostly ignored by the first one in favor of economics. Here, the artists on-stage are generous enough to serve as conduits for the joy of the women in the audience, believing that making even just one woman in the audience feel as good as Max did that first time with Mike is more than enough reward. This all stems from XXL‘s most beloved scene, where Joe Manganiello’s Big Dick Richie, high out of his mind on molly, makes a sullen convenience-store clerk’s day with just Cheetos, water, and “I Want It That Way”. When that clerk finally cracks a smile, it’s a profound moment for her, for Big Dick Richie, and for his bros, a selfless act that’s also an artistic reawakening. This whole movie is borne from the ethos of that act, where sex is art and art has the power to create lasting, life-changing connections. The tone is set in the first scene, when Mike reunites with Kim (Caitlin Gerard), whose sorority party was interrupted by his and Pettyfer’s “cops” in the first movie. In-movie, that scene was the beginning of the end for our stripper pals, Pettyfer botching the whole thing because he was trying to sell drugs at the party, but Kim doesn’t remember the bad times, just that Mike gave her a special moment that her current partner will never know about. Even before he gives Max the dance of her life, this plants the seed in Mike’s mind that he really does have a gift, one that’s made a lot of women very happy. Mike’s bros are largely absent from Last Dance aside from a funny Zoom conversation, and (props to Miller for pointing this out) removing most of the men from XXL means the emphasis is instead placed on the women receiving the pleasure and how they react to it. The convenience-store clerk may have been thrilled by her Backstreet Boys serenade, but she didn’t abandon her post to support the guys like the lonely bureaucrat who Mike’s dancers bring some long-overdue joy to. XXL held up its strippers as “healers” (jokingly but also not) and now we get to see the women they “healed” beyond the moment of their dance together, seeing that they really do stay healed in the aftermath. If people could previously complain about Soderbergh’s chilly, uninviting treatment of sex work, this is him making it clear that, as Kevin Nash tells us in his one scene, sex work is nothing to be ashamed of. It may even be the one honorable profession within the bounds of capitalism.
This series started as Channing Tatum autobiography, but with Last Dance it makes the transition to also being Soderbergh autobiography. This is the first Magic Mike that happened at Soderbergh’s behest rather than Tatum’s, based on a brainstorm he had watching the Magic Mike Live stage show. One reference point he had was All That Jazz, specifically its backstage process scenes but also implicitly in its obvious relation to the artist behind the camera, the one dealing with the same bean-counting, hostile-to-artists system that Mike has to fight through. All That Jazz is a somewhat misleading comparison (Soderbergh, for his justified cynicism, can’t compete with Bob Fosse’s fatalism and self-loathing), and perhaps a better one is Ocean’s Twelve. In the most obvious sense this is another European adventure sidelining the team from the previous movie in favor of a centralized romance, and it’s also another movie about the impossible task of its own making. Twelve had Terry Benedict standing in for the studio demanding that the Ocean’s gang reconvene for an even bigger job than the last one (they fail in almost all their attempts to do this), and Hayek is an even more literal stand-in because she’s literally the producer to Mike’s director. This is a flirty rom-com about the director’s dilemma of having a financier/producer who is admirably passionate about a project but maybe wants too much creative input, and Soderbergh (more willing to see the positive side than he was in 2012) takes the optimistic view that while Max has the money and some frustrating and unknowable whims, within her boundaries Mike can do incredible, meaningful work. Maybe it’s because Soderbergh can see himself in Max too, how he grabbed onto Channing Tatum’s story after first hearing it and refused to let go. He can only hope Tatum got as much out of the arrangement as he did.
Tatum and Mike have to learn a key Soderbergh skill in this, how to disguise your art and your story under the pretense of another story in order to get it made. Mike’s show must be advertised and begin as a new reworking of Isabel Ascendant, leaving its actual content a surprise when it transitions from boring period dialogue to openly mocking the misogynist messages of its source material (and then men start taking off their clothes). It could go better than anyone could dream, or it could make a lot of middle-aged British women very angry. Soderbergh has seen both sides of that, and he’s rooting for Mike to be able to stage personal art without having the audience revolt against it for having their expectations upended. Soderbergh may not be so lucky this time around, since Last Dance is getting close to Twelve‘s initial baffled-to-angry reactions, most with the subtext of “why didn’t you just repeat the previous one?”. That’s just not how Soderbergh works, and it continues to serve him very well.
Mike’s show ends up being the real Magic Mike Live stage show, and while I have not seen Magic Mike Live (maybe I’ll cover it after I finally watch the last two seasons of The Girlfriend Experience), on first viewing I thought the show was solid but a bit of an anticlimax, certainly not in the same league as XXL‘s wonderful finale (there wasn’t even a single Nine Inch Nails song in it!). I came around on it completely on rewatch, and I think it makes one improvement on XXL‘s climax with the thing it keeps relatively the same: the emcee introducing each new strip routine. In XXL, that part was played to the hilt by Jada Pinkett Smith, buttering up her audience of “queens” with a showman’s zeal. She was great, but she and almost everyone else from XXL isn’t here. XXL packed its supporting cast full of stars, but this takes Soderbergh and his casting director Carmen Cuba’s usual approach, where you don’t know this person and you won’t believe how good they are. In Smith’s place is another actor I haven’t heard of, Juliette Motamed, as the lead of Isabel Ascendant who’s more than happy to kick that shit to the curb and join Mike’s show. She’s so immediately and completely charismatic, her personality clearly wasted on polite sub-Austenisms, that I wanted to see as much of her as possible, which says a lot about how she could hold a crowd in the palm of her hand. And while Smith was simply the host of the evening, Motamed also gets to be the audience surrogate, visibly receiving the same pleasure she delivers to the crowd.
The biggest difference between the climaxes of this and XXL is that the dancers in XXL are the characters we’ve been following the whole movie, while the dancers in Last Dance are just dancers and not characters, often not even speaking parts. We learn nothing about them except that they can move, so the ending isn’t a resolution to any of their arcs but instead confirmation that they can move. But they can really move, and that gives this a feeling different than the relatively limited (but charismatic as hell) routines of the first two, where Tatum was the sole (former) professional dancer in the bunch. Soderbergh is more than up to the challenge of filming these bodies in motion, though his excellent framing of the ending only comes second-place to his introduction of the dancers, an “assembling the team” montage that will be hard to top for pure fun by any subsequent movie this year. Soderbergh can have a precocious teen read her essay on dance as liberation in the voice-over, because he makes you believe it when he gives these boys and their extraordinary moves the power to lift the world off your shoulders.
It should almost go without saying that all of this, from the dancing to the talking, looks incredible, like the vast majority of Soderbergh movies do (the ones that aren’t meant to look deliberately ugly, and a few of the ugly ones too). The Soderbergh digital aesthetic has mostly remained the same since he first crystallized it on Bubble, but there’s been a notable change to it since XXL, away from the sterile tableaux and intense color washes that have defined him for decades (like him making Tampa the color of cloudy piss in the first Magic Mike) in favor of a more vibrant, neutral color palette (that’s still often very orange/yellow) and a more mobile camera (that still often stops for off-angle shots of people talking to each other). This style tipped towards Netflix-sheen blandness in The Laundromat (still the least of that movie’s problems) but mostly it’s served him very well, his relative restraint only emphasizing what a wizard he is with color and motion. Just look at that opening lap dance, where the romantic, melancholy atmosphere is created by the lush, just-after-magic-hour blue of nighttime Miami coming through the windows, the islands of Soderbergh orange provided by Max’s lamps, and the gently see-sawing camera moves. Or look at one of the headlights of the climax, where he creates a perfect black-and-white image in a color frame only using in-camera lighting effects. Soderbergh has cited Vittorio Storaro’s work with Bernardo Bertolucci as a stylistic influence here (he once called Storaro’s astonishing work on Tucker: The Man and His Dream, which he watched multiple times right before shooting this, “an endless parade of boner-inducing images,” as good a description of Last Dance and the Magic Mike series as anything), and he follows Storaro’s belief in color and camera movement as emotional tools, that a well-chosen hue or an unexpected zoom will provoke a deeper, more primal sensation in the viewer than any dialogue or performance could. Soderbergh is often self-effacing about his value as a cinematographer, joking that he’s no Emmanuel Lubezki but he gets the job done quickly and gets to be closer to his actors in the process. Modesty is a good trait for any artist (Mike certainly possesses it), but he underrates his abilities as a stylist, which are second to none in mainstream cinema. Seeing Soderbergh and M. Night Shyamalan movies in theaters around the same time is a reminder of how there’s nobody remaining at a studio level with their innate sense of how to interestingly frame a shot, even a seemingly banal one. Frustratingly few people who give themselves the canvas of 2.35:1 take full advantage of that canvas, but ever since The Underneath, Soderbergh has always packed his widescreen frames full of bodies, dynamic camera moves, and vivid colors for our viewing pleasure. Seeing a shot designed to take your eye across the entire width of a theater screen is a tremendous pleasure, and not one to take for granted. In one key backstage scene, Mike choreographs a steamy chair dance before Max (correctly) complains that he’s leaving the vast majority of the stage unused in this routine. This could be the voice in Soderbergh’s head, telling him not to waste the immense potential of every tool involved in making a movie. Sure enough, when this dance reappears in the movie, it’s been restaged as a screen-filling panorama.
Did I mention I saw this in a theater? That hasn’t been true of a new Soderbergh in five years, when the iPhone onslaught of Unsane was projected big and loud for the ten people total who cared to see it, and it only happened this time because Warners screened it and realized they’d be idiots to let it rot on HBO Max. It makes sense why Soderbergh, who loves nothing more than to find a new piece of technology and see what it can do, would try out streaming releases, especially after his previous theatrical distribution gambit was an unambiguous failure. From this period, we got one really good movie that’s thematically tied to the supposed democracy of streaming (and whose iPhone photography probably wouldn’t have held up on a theater screen as well as Unsane‘s did), and then several really good-to-great movies that may have been better-served by getting to experience them with an audience; if Kimi went to theaters, “Kimi, play ‘Sabotage'” would be an applause moment bigger than anything in Top Gun: Maverick. I can’t speak for the rowdy audience experiences many are having with Last Dance, though the four older women behind me the first time seemed into it (how I wish I could’ve seen Let Them All Talk with a crowd of ladies like them), but I can speak to how much Soderbergh’s butter-smooth digital images flourish when given the largest canvas imaginable. Even his tiniest decisions, like the frequent anamorphic rack-focusing or the subtle lens distortion at the edges of pans (nowhere near No Sudden Move extremity but still noticeable), register an enormous impact at that size, creating a frame that’s not just beautiful but alive, shapeshifting and reacting rather than just recording information. His camera and his colors respond emotionally to the scenes (like the key emotional scene being shot with frantic, second-half-of-Kimi handheld) and those responses double the emotional impact to the viewer. You can see this watching one of his movies on a laptop but the theater setting makes the best case for it, putting a magnifying glass to his process so that all of his usual tricks make seismic impact. This is what going to the theater should be, an opportunity to see artistry projected too big to ignore. I hope this isn’t the last opportunity to do so with Soderbergh.
I’ve hopefully now intellectualized why I really liked this movie, and now I can say that I also really liked it because I think it’s about me. I know what Carly Simon would have to say about that, but it’s written into the text of Last Dance, which is all about art with the power to simultaneously entertain a crowd and speak unbelievably personally to one person within that crowd. In this light, I feel safe to say that this is (maybe not to you but definitely to me) a movie about a woman who’s so moved and creatively inspired by a piece of Steven Soderbergh art that she pledges the rest of her life to him. When Max speaks of that first lap dance, she speaks as someone who’s been handed art that unlocks something deep in her, something she’d never be able to access on her own. And she reacts the same to the titular last dance, watching what looks very close to fucking in public and seeing a reflection of her own story, cheered on by every woman around her. Mike’s art sets her on a path that can only move her forward, even if the steps there are fraught and confusing. When I see her watching Mike at work, I think about how the first movie I put on after I came out was Schizopolis, partly out of comfort and partly because I now knew why Betsy Brantley in it made me so sad, because I understood a woman trapped in a stagnant, sad gender role better than I had imagined. This is a lot to lay on the movie where Soderbergh films himself jerking off, but it’s a lot to lay on a lap dance too. Max loves Mike as I love Soderbergh, he has guided me through much more than he could probably imagine. I can only hope that those allergic to Soderbergh’s sensibility have at least one artist who makes them feel like I do, an artist who can create such a profound emotional connection even in their most “minor” works.
Lester Scale: Really Fascinating Film That (I Predict) Gets Better With Age
The Soderbergh Players: Channing Tatum disappeared from movies very soon after his last Soderbergh collaboration, and his return to stardom five years later has been so successful because in the interim, no one else has come anywhere close to his ineffable star appeal. Everyone else (except Tom Cruise) is riding on the back of franchises while people see Tatum movies because nobody could be heartless enough not to love him. Looking back at Tatum’s Soderbergh movies without taking his presence in the film world for granted makes it obvious what a talent he is, especially the Magic Mikes where he reveals the full power of his easy-going charm but even the small parts like Haywire (where he has to sell as a potential abusive boyfriend in the first scene and then recontextualize himself as a dopey but lovable pawn). I’d love to see him continue his Soderbergh collaboration at full force, we need all the Logan Lucky-esque vehicles we can get from him.
The original female lead of this was Thandiwe Newton, who left due to a personal matter and was maliciously (and 100% falsely) spun as a villain by the press. Soderbergh needed to think fast to keep his movie afloat, and he came up with someone he worked with a long time ago in a very limited capacity. It certainly took me a bit of thinking after Salma Hayek’s casting to remember back to her uncredited one-scene appearance in Traffic, which as Soderbergh says in the commentary was a very generous favor considering her circa-2000 fame. This is the second of what is now three Soderbergh projects in a row prominently featuring Traffic cast members, maybe this is a coincidence or maybe for some reason this movie has been forefront in his mind lately, like how he cast three Breaking Bad actors in three successive movies. When is Betsy Brandt going to reappear in the Soderverse, she’s among the very best of his capitalism demons.
Behind the scenes, many key personnel throughout the series return, including Gregory Jacobs (now back to merely producing), Reid Carolin, Carmen Cuba, producer Nick Wechsler (whose ties with Soderbergh go all the way back to sex, lies, and videotape), costume designer Christopher Peterson (who went from a green Soderbergh hire on The Girlfriend Experience to Sandy Powell’s partner on The Irishman in a decade), music supervisor Season Kent (who replaced Soderbergh go-to Frankie Pine on XXL), and choreographer Alison Faulk (who was one of the main creative voices behind Magic Mike Live). And as can usually be expected, Larry Blake is on hand as sound designer. But the series’ previous production designer, Howard Cummings, is absent, in his place veteran British TV production designer Pat Campbell (who does a great job). Lately Soderbergh has preferred to shake up what production designers he works with, and that’s left Cummings, who worked with him on six movies (and at least three seasons of TV) in a row and has now worked with him on one out of his last nine projects, including the forthcoming miniseries Full Circle and the shot-in-secret miniseries The Pendulum Project (with Michael Cera and Liev Schreiber) that I only learned about two weeks ago. This is another joy of being a Soderbergh fan, there’ll always be plenty of surprises in store as long as he’s working.
- I revisited the first Magic Mike a year ago, for a “Galentine’s Day” screening in the same theater where I saw this one (I was the only gal of the two people in the screening, I always seem to get the least rowdy and fun crowd experiences of these movies). I’ve loved Cody Horn in Magic Mike since the first time I saw it, but there’s been enough snotty takes about her allegedly being a Pettyfer-level drag on it that I forgot until this viewing that she’s incredible in it, and everybody who says otherwise is being quite cruel. She gives the rare, maybe only, performance from an actor who isn’t Kristen Stewart that could be note-for-note a Kristen Stewart performance, and the way people talk about Horn sounds like the mouthbreathers who were calling Stewart the worst actress ever because of Twilight.
- It’s a little maddening to see a number of critics I usually respect be down on this movie for no other reason besides that Mike’s bros aren’t in it enough. This is an example of a strain of Soderbergh criticism, “Why won’t he make what I want him to make?”, that dates back to Kafka and has become particularly irritating in this post-retirement period, and also it’s based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what this series is, that it’s the saga of Mike and his best buds. With the first one fresh in mind, I know they started as just guys in the background, coworkers who Mike has a polite but somewhat tenuous relationship with, until XXL makes them actual characters (or overrides their previous characters, like Matt Bomer being charmingly deluded rather than a glassy-eyed creep).
- As one of the biggest Truth About Charlie stans, I have nothing but love for Thandiwe Newton, but the strength of Hayek’s performance (and whatever changes were made to have the role better suit Hayek) makes it impossible for me to imagine Newton in this part. I just don’t see her or anyone else delivering this level of intoxicating (but always a little ridiculous) self-confidence.
- There’s maybe nobody else working with as good an eye for establishing shots as Soderbergh’s, in evidence here when London is introduced via a montage of object shots of tourist-tchotchke representations of famous British sights instead of the actual sights.
- Shout-out to this movie’s version of the Backstreet Boys scene, which Soderbergh shoots and edits like he’s bragging he could still make an amazing Ocean’s movie if he wanted to.
- I had this thought watching Tatum’s first film appearance since 2017, a cameo in the (perfectly okay!) Ryan Reynolds vehicle Free Guy, and it equally applies to this movie and series: Channing Tatum would be an amazing, virtuosic Gigolo Joe.
- Anybody disappointed that this isn’t XXL again would do well to watch Tatum and Carolin’s directorial debut Dog, which covers a lot of the XXL bases (particularly as a goofy, earnest road-trip movie through forgotten corners of America) while trying to tackle America’s fucked-up relationship with its troops. It bites off a little more than it can chew (perhaps the dog didn’t need to be racist), but it’s got maybe my favorite Tatum performance, it looks really good (Soderbergh taught both men well), and it has an extended sequence with Kevin Nash and Jane Adams as pot-growing husband and wife.
- It took me until seeing the title of Isabel Ascendant typed out to realize that it’s likely a Tatum and Carolin joke on Jupiter Ascending, which Tatum has made no secret that he was very confused by throughout and after its making. I hope it’s not too malicious an in-joke, because whether Tatum knows it or not, he and his aforementioned puppy-dog appeal (more literal than ever in Jupiter, at least until Dog) are a perfect fit for that movie’s teenage-girl sci-fi.
- Every once in a while, Soderbergh will allow himself one moment of Schizopolisy silliness in the middle of something otherwise more grounded in reality. Here it comes very late and is scarcely different than Soderbergh bringing back his “IDEA MISSING” card.
- I did not notice this until after, but a very important dance in this movie (maybe the most important one) is exactly the same as Mac’s coming-out dance from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, down to sharing the same choreographer and the same dance partner. It turns out this is because Rob McElhenney saw Magic Mike Live, which was the origin of this dance, and asked Faulk and ballerina Kylie Shea to redo it for him. I have no idea if Soderbergh saw or was even made aware of Always Sunny‘s version of this choreography, his yearly seen-read logs give no impression he’s an Always Sunny fan but maybe Faulk showed him the YouTube video and he left it in as funny metatext, as he’s wont to do. But the important thing is that even if I had remembered what exactly I was watching, Soderbergh would’ve made me forget by the time he brought out the Solaris direct-to-camera close-ups during it.
Up Next: Soderbergh returns to TV, to HBO Max, and to Zazie Beetz with Full Circle.