Dear Mr. Jacobs,
I write to you first as an admirer and a lover of cinema. Like most true cinephiles, I have been wondering for three years whatever happened to Mike Lane and the Kings of Tampa after they went off in search of great fame and fortune at the end of 2012’s Magic Mike. In other words, I have been anticipating Magic Mike XXL. Of course, my wife and I saw it during its first weekend of release.
I wish this was a simple letter of congratulations on a fine film, and nothing more. But I am also a lover of wine, and as such, I was extremely disturbed by one scene. The care you put into your work is evident, and one does not achieve your level in any industry without meticulous attention to detail and an interest in self-improvement. For that reason, I find it most likely that you will appreciate honest criticism, as without it we cannot improve, let alone perfect, our respective métiers.
When the Kings of Tampa arrive in Charleston after the trying first leg of their journey northward, they go to the address given to Tito by Megan Davidson, the flirtatious young woman he met the night before. The boys are awestruck at the size of the house - could it be that Megan is a trust-fund kid? Their mouths water.
Inside the house they find not only the young girls they meant to rendezvous with, but also a pack of four “cougars;” presumably Megan’s mother and some of her friends. These middle-aged Southern ladies are understandably titillated by the virile male entertainers in their midst, and Nancy Davidson (played by true South Carolinian Andie MacDowell) senses the imminent escalation of their quiet soirée. She sends Megan’s friend Zoe down to the basement to get more wine. Bring up anything that looks expensive, instructs Mrs. Davidson.
Mike takes this opportunity to “help” Zoe with the errand, giving the kids their first moment alone since they first spoke as Mike pissed on the beach after the wild drag party. Their conversation in the cellar is personal, but it’s peppered with questions about which wines to take up. They peruse labels and toss many bottles into the basket they have enlisted in their help.
Eventually, Mike comes across a bottle whose label is familiar to any oenophile; he twists and holds the bottle upside-down, trying to make out the label, and eventually slogs through the pertinent information: It’s an 1959 Château Lafite; a powerful and sexy wine; the Channing Tatum of Bordeaux.
In short, Mike and Zoe come up with wine, and the bacchanal upstairs rolls on. But this is not an unbribled party scene like the one back at the drag club- this is potentially the most poignant scene in the film. Unfortunately, the jarring treament of the Lafite makes full immersion in the scene all but impossible for the viewer.
1- Wine storage - As is common knowledge, traditional low-country architecture employs outdoor steps that ascend to the front door of house. Therefore the main floor is really the second floor, and going downstairs, as Mike and Zoe did to get the wine, is really just going down to the first floor, not the basement (which probably does not exist). It is obvious that Mike and Zoe arrive in the “wine cellar” directly from the stairs, which implies that there is no specific climate-control for this room. It is Fourth of July weekend in Charleston, South Carolina - even if the house is kept at a comfortable temperature for people, that is hardly the kind of temperature that befits a fifty year-old bottle of Lafite.
The mischievous way in which Mrs. Davidson instructs Zoe to get “expensive” wine implies that the wine belonged to her ex-husband, and was therefore not recently purchased from a dealer who had stored it properly. We can only infer that the wine had been in the Davidson house for years and years. Storing such a wine in these conditions would have put the wine at risk, which would have been a grave threat to the sexually-charged impromptu party going on upstairs. Had the guests been served a faulty wine, it would have dampened the whole occasion. Instead of unzipping Big Dick Richie’s shirt and looking “under the hood,” Nancy and her guests would have been spitting out the sour wine, which would have been a calamity that no ripped slaps of pec meat could have attenuated.
Some hastily-constructed wine racks “downstairs” do not constitute a properly-functioning wine cellar, and it is irresponsible and insulting to expect the viewers of Magic Mike XXL to believe that they do.
2- Mike’s treatment of the Lafite is shocking and mood-ruiningly disturbing. Before he even knows the producer or the age of the wine, Mike has twisted the bottle around like a drum major’s baton. He may be a beefy stripper, but we all know that Mike’s no dummy; there is no way he would be ignorant to the fact that handling the wine as he did would disturb the sediment in the bottle, redistributing it throughout the wine and significantly reducing its enjoyability.
Mike, while talking to Zoe, should have carefully taken the wine – which ideally would have been stored label-up – out of its rack and placed it in a wine cradle, also label-up. He should have carried it upstairs like a newborn, taking care not to disturb it at all. This would have assured that the sediment that has collected over decades would have remained minimally disturbed at the back of the bottle. As Mike handles it in the film, the sediment would have been mixed up with the wine, and not one sip – not one – would have been free of grit. The horny Southern housewives obviously had other things on their mind, but it would have been pretty tough to ignore each grainy sip of Lafite.
3- Accessing the wine - I understand that in a feature film, every minute is precious, but it is just plain lazy to show Mike and Zoe bringing a basket full of fine vintage wine up to the living room, then skip right to them pouring; 55 year-old wine does not just magically open itself. We viewers gamely stretched our credulity to believe that Mike and the boys could throw together a brand-new, sultry, show-stopping act mere days before the Myrtle Beach stripper convention, but this was just too much.
It would have been much more realistic to intersperse shots of the strippers and housewives in the living room with shots of Mike and Zoe prudently opening the wine in the kitchen. Maybe like this:
INT KITCHEN: Mike enters, gently holding the cradle containing the 1959 Lafite.
INT LVG. RM: The wives in the other room vent their marital frustrations to the hunks. Nancy’s friend drearily explains how her husband has never allowed her to keep the lights on during sex. The guys’ sympathy, as well as the sexual tension, are palpable.
INT KITCHEN: Mike carefully cuts the foil, taking pains to wipe away any residue that has accumulated under the cap over 55 years. Zoe’s hand brushes Mike’s as she hands him the perfect tool for the job: an ah so opener.
INT LVG. RM: Ken gives Nancy’s lovelorn friend a lapdance, his taut body and earnest a cappella performance of Bryan Adams’s Heaven rekindling in her a fire which had long since dimmed.
INT KITCHEN: Mike works the ah-so into the neck of the bottle, allowing his tool to squeeze the ancient cork. He rocks the cork back and forth, easing it out while maintaining its structure.
INT LVG. RM: Mrs. Davidson tells the boys she knew her husband was gay because he enjoyed it when she put her finger in his ass.
INT KITCHEN: Mike and Zoe candle and decant the Lafite, holding the shoulder of the bottle over a light source so they can prevent any gross sediment from making it into the decanter. Mike guides Zoe through this process from behind, like in Ghost.
INT LVG. RM: Mike and Zoe enter the room with the decanter of pristine Lafite and polished, odor-free glasses. They rejoin the party just as Big Dick Richie assures Nancy that her sexual prime is nowhere near over, and her eyes betray her desire and their chemistry. The Lafite adds to the hedonistic atmosphere.
Now that’s a party scene.
4- The pouring and drinking of the wine - In the scene, Mike walks around with a bottle in each hand, filling not-quite-empty glasses ambidextrously – one of those hands is holding the Lafite, and he’s dumping it into the cougars’ glasses like it’s a bottle of Apothic they picked up at Publix! Come on! The boys crashed their food truck while driving under the influence of molly, but mixing Lafite with whatever they were drinking before – that’s the grievous crime in MMXXL.
And you’re telling me that out of all those GTLing, Red Bull-chugging guys, nubile sorority girls, and kept women whose tastes probably list Rombauerward, not one of them would comment on taste of the Lafite, since it’s vinous character would doubtless be much different than what they’re used to? At this point in the scene, we should be abuzz with the tension between Nancy and Big Dick Richie – will they or won’t they? – but instead, we’re forced to deal with an avalanche of anxiety brought on by the reckless treatment of a priceless wine. Mr. Jacobs, this is no way to treat your viewers.
I acknowledge that as a director, you are fully within your rights to take artistic license. But where does that license veer into irresponsibility? I can’t say, but I know it when I see it, and I saw it in the way that a stately wine was abused in a movie about a truckload of male strippers drinking, drugging, and fucking their way up the Atlantic coast.
You are the director. You are the steward of the Magic Mike brand, and I hate to see such a valuable piece of our culture being used to propagate, intentionally or not, damaging behaviors. On behalf of all lovers of the Magic Mike franchise and lovers of wine, I implore you to take your responsibility seriously.
I look forward to your reply, and/or a third Magic Mike film.