It should come as no surprise that the men of Magic Mike are just superb. Perfect casting and a top-notch script have Channing Tatum deftly moving between flirtatious charmer, seriously talented dancer, and motivated businessman with a dream. You can’t really say that the role of “Magic Mike” is made for him, however, since he advised on the script based on his past experiences. However, feel free to throw that accolade at Matthew McConaughey with his smoothtalking, seasoned club owner Dallas. It’s ridiculous how much the bondage-gear costumes and cold-blooded business sense — not to mention a stunning performance in the third act — fit him.
Again, the casting folks delivered men who were game to explore this commentary on male objectification, and director Steven Soderbergh coaxed winning performances out of them. But what about the women? This is trickier, since the film’s emotional heft rests on these male friendships and the women’s impact is more tangential. There’s also only two main ladies, Olivia Munn and Cody Horn, who wind up being two sides of the same coin when it comes to Mike’s love life.
The impression I always got from Olivia Munn’s character Joanna is that she’s meant to be sort of a throwaway. We meet her (and her breasts) in the first scene, and she and Mike have an easy rapport, but they’re also incredibly casual: She’s a sexually adventurous grad student who calls him up to orchestrate the occasional threesome. It’s fascinating to see, as the stripper lifestyle begins to wear on Mike, him grow increasingly dependent on Joanna. But her emotional stake is always clear.
I was skeptical when Olivia was first cast, believing that her role was yet another permutation of her “hot but low-key girl hanging with the boys” niche. Considering that we meet Cody Horn’s character Brooke — older sister of The Kid (Alex Pettyfer), who clearly has her shit together — soon after, it seems clear that Brooke is going to eclipse Joanna. But as Magic Mike progressed, I found myself much more invested in Joanna’s character.