For most people, their curiosity about the world of male strippers started and ended with Magic Mike, the 2012 Steven Soderbergh dud that was only entertaining because of the actors’ commitment to the dancing.
But one of those actors — Joe Manganiello, who played the humbly named Big Dick Richie — was so intrigued by male dancers that he decided to dive all the way in and make a documentary about them. That film, La Bare, focuses on LaBare Dallas, which, according to the film, is known as one of the best male strip clubs in the world.
Manganiello, in his directorial debut, says he was able to gain access into every aspect of the dancers’ lives because of the street cred he earned from Magic Mike. That entrée to their inner sanctum pays off in a number of ways.
Anyone expecting a repeat of the glossy dance scenes from Magic Mike will be sorely disappointed, as Manganiello shows only smidgens of routines.
The undisputed star of the film is Randy, also known as Master Blaster, a nickname he swears he took before Stevie Wonder made the term popular. And that could very well be true, because the song was released in 1980, and Randy has been entertaining the ladies since the late 1970s.
Randy’s commitment to his craft is either impressive, as he’s been able to maintain a body necessary for the profession for so long, or sad, as it seems like a job that one shouldn’t stick with for longer than a decade, at most. But there’s no denying Randy’s commitment, and the fact that his elderly mother supports his career 100 percent and that he has a multitude of fans willing to testify on his behalf speaks volumes.
Manganiello profiles pretty much everyone at the club, from the hottest dancer to the guy responsible for cleaning up discarded clothing and dollar bills. In addition to Randy, there are a few interesting stories, including a military veteran and a dancer who was shot and killed while still in his prime.
But Manganiello never finds a true heart to the film. Although it’s not hard to see how he might have found a kinship with the people he talked with, that familiarity and warmth never translate on film.
Some of the dancers are dumb, some are smart, some are egotistical and some are humble. In short, they’re just like people from every other walk of life. Although that may surprise a few people, most would know that without ever watching the movie, and the film never gives a compelling reason that we need to know the dancers better.
Anyone expecting a repeat of the glossy dance scenes from Magic Mike will be sorely disappointed, as Manganiello shows only smidgens of routines. Those that do appear have almost zero titillating value; the experience may be fun in person, but on screen it comes off as dark, dirty and depressing.
Manganiello’s heart was in the right place in making La Bare, because he wanted to show the world that male dancers have more depth than many give them credit for. Although he has the moves to prove himself as an actor, Manganiello hasn’t yet figured out how to make people shine from the other side of the camera.