From recent accounts of Josh Brolin’s career, one might imagine that he did nothing between The Goonies and No Country except putter about his ranch, mend fences, and practice staring into the sunset. He did in fact do all of those things, but he also was working as any other working man might: non-stop. The longest break between movies was only three years, and projects, though spotty, were constant. “I went through 20 odd years very frustrated,” he says, his voice gaining a slight edge. “I didn’t make a lot of money and there were some years that were really, really tough.”
As Brolin toiled in bit parts in genre films, time—relentless time—and the California sun lacquered his skin, kneaded deep furrows around his eyes, and eroded the weight he had clung to as a young man. He gradually built a niche for himself, playing the sorts of western men with whom he had spent his childhood, and with whom he spent his days, but of whom he knew he never was. When faced with the question, Brolin sharply replies, “I am an actor, that’s what I do. I don’t pretend to be something else.”
Don’t get me wrong—there is substance to Magic Mike. I will spend the remainder of 2012 defending this movie’s non-guilty pleasure virtues to anyone foolish enough to give me a venue. But it’s those asses and pecs and arms that will bring audiences in, and Magic Mike wastes no time in getting us to the first strip scene. Nor is it restricted to a single money shot: the film spends its two-hour runtime swinging between its love story, its coming-of-age story, and the stripper known as Tarzan (Kevin Nash) swinging on a vine across the strip club stage. Magic Mike merits rewatching because of a mostly self-aware script by Reid Carolin and Steven Soderbergh’s strong directing skills. But it’s just as worth the repeat viewings for every rhythmic thrust.
Straight women deserve this showcase as much as gay men do, but I think Magic Mike will ultimately prove more relevant to the latter. The movie is coded for its gay audience: it’s not as overtly gay as Brokeback Mountain (still one of the few examples of mainstream sexualized gay entertainment, sadly) or even Albert Nobbs. And in calling Magic Mike a movie “for women,” while neither embracing nor shying away from any homoerotic subtext, the producers have all but guaranteed a cult gay following. It’s a gateway drug for those men who aren’t ready to fully commit to the “LGBT interest” genre.
Mark and Jay Duplass, better known as the Duplass Brothers in the entertainment business, are quietly becoming some of the more prolific talents in Hollywood. Since their Sundance darling The Puffy Chair in 2005, the brothers have created their own style of small films that always have a Mariana’s Trench of emotional depth, often morphing into a story you never expected to see or feel—comedy with poignancy, to put it in simpler terms. By sharing writing and directing duties on fine, indie-sized studio films like Cyrus and Jeff Who Lives at Home and executive producing the charmingly weird Safety Not Guaranteed, the Duplass duo would seem to be following in the tradition of brotherly filmmaking forbearers, Joel and Ethan Coen.
But then Mark had to go and have his acting career take off, with roles in sap-fests My Darling Companion andPeople Like Us, landing a spot on the FX series The League and roles in a number of upcoming major studio films, including one directed by Katherine Bigelow where he helps kill Osama bin Laden. If you had to guess which of the two brothers star is currently shining brighter—for people who care about such things—the safe bet is clearly Mark (though there is an outside chance Jay may actually be the next Brando, pre-obesity). I only stir all this up to cheaply pivot to the fact that the plot of their newest film together, The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, is about two overly competitive middle-aged brothers who try to solve their differences through a series of competitions, and, in true Duplass Brothers fashion, end up facing a much more complex, deep-seeded emotional issue. I chatted with Mark and Jay the day after Do-Deca premiered at this year’s SxSW and was picked up for distribution through Fox Searchlight for an early July release. After that type of success together, it’s all brotherly love.
I need this right now
In lieu of love: doughnuts.
I went into a sugar coma looking at this
Alternative: Approximately everyone has been on The X-Files.