I don’t like to write articles where it seems like we’re trying to set up some sort of nonexistent catfight between actresses. That’s not what I’m trying to do here. However, I thought it worthwhile to point out the expectations that the trailers set up for each character and how their final performances actually ended up reversed. Part of it was Cody Horn’s performance, which was so understated as to seem emotionless in certain scenes. I’m not sure why, since Cody isn’t entirely green; she spent most of 2011 in recurring roles on The Office and Rescue Me. Except for the above scene on the sandbar where Brooke and Mike wander the beach and slowly, gigglingly, get to know each other, she comes across as fairly stoic. In the scenes where it counted, I couldn’t rely on her for authentic reaction shots.
But then you have Olivia, whose face is a study in nuanced emotion. From her first scene where Joanna teases Mike about leaving her and a stranger alone in his really nice house, you can see that she’s constantly calculating. A psychology student weeks away from becoming a full-fledged shrink, she doesn’t feel the need to hide what she’s thinking from Mike, or any man. The scene that sticks in my mind is one of their postcoital conversations where they’re draped over each other on the couch, still mostly clothed, and I could swear Joanna is silently crying even as she jokes about him being nothing more than a nice set of abs.
That kind of barb gets under Mike’s skin. IndieWire writes that “Soderbergh attempts to flip the script of the traditional feminist text, showing how women objectify, use and discard these men.” Joanna never becomes emotionally attached, and while I won’t give spoilers, the way that they write her out of the running as Mike’s romantic lead is head-slappingly obvious once it happens. The sandbar scene gives us a brief, interesting glimpse of the hierarchy between Joanna and Brooke, when Joanna starts flirting with her poking her tattoos. Cody told Vulture that those are her real tattoos, but they fit into the story: “Olivia wanted to find some way to make my character really uncomfortable, because she thinks my character is a toy for them to play with.” However, the balance shifts when Mike gently chides Olivia and goes to find Brooke.
As Movies By Bowes points out, Brooke and Joanna represent two sides of Mike’s existential crisis: He’s a 30-year-old stripper who wants more, who wants to run his own business and have a woman who wants him for more than his onstage moves. Bowes also agrees that Cody Horn was just underwhelming, and puts it better than I can: “[She's] a bit awkward as the Kid’s sister, and makes a bit of a mess with her one big emotional scene. Still, she’s not terrible, just not all that great.”
Cody-as-Brooke just seems to expect that Mike will eventually see the error of his ways and come to her. Or not, but she really doesn’t have the time or energy to care since she’s more concerned with rescuing her nineteen-year-old brother from his experimentation with drugs. But Joanna is constantly watching Mike to see what his next move is, and that, combined with Olivia Munn and Channing Tatum’s chemistry, makes for a much more engaging dynamic.
Magic Mike is out tomorrow! Go see it and let me know what you think of the ladies. Do I have it completely wrong? Or maybe it doesn’t matter since we’re really going for Channing’s awesome dance moves.
Photos: Warner Bros.