Following the success of Magic Mike, actor Joe Manganiello stepped behind the camera to direct La Bare, a behind-the-curtain documentary that shows what it is like to be a male stripper. Well, at least what it’s like to be a good male stripper in a good Dallas, Texas nightclub called La Bare. Leave your judgement at the door.
Along with the inside look at La Bare, the documentary sets up a series of mini-spotlights that focus on a few of the club’s dancers. These profiles help to show why men get involved in this business. Unsurprisingly, the main motivation is money and pride in their work, as shown through Randy “Master Blaster”, who has been at this for almost thirty years! Of course, the popularity of Magic Mike is also a factor that brought more men to the stage, like the young up-and-coming dancer nicknamed “Channing”, who joined La Bare after graduating high school.
It was interesting to learn more about the background and personal lives of the La Bare men. So much so, I wish Manganiello had picked fewer guys to profile so we could get an even more in-depth look at their lives. After all, everything looks so glamorous: there is a brotherhood amongst the men; they get stacks of money from sugar mommas; sexual partners are not an issue, but what about the moral issues that assuredly arise in this profession? When these problems are brought up, such as sleeping with clients, married women slipping the men their numbers, or accepting money from clients to pay their bills, the men quickly justify their actions instead of the question being properly fleshed out. One of the most interesting parts about the documentary was when Cesar revealed he was unlike the other dancers in that he had only slept with five women in his life. I wish we had seen more of that. Surely there are more complaints than just having to keep your body in top form and learning dance routines.
I was also both disgusted and riveted by the dancers’ openness. Manganiello did his job to make the men feel comfortable enough with him to ignore the camera and say whatever they wanted in their confessionals, unfiltered. This means that on more than one occasion, I found myself incredibly annoyed by what some of the subjects were saying. For instance, there was a discussion that male strippers have to have a lot more talent than their female counterparts. After all, the guys have to lift weights, eat healthy, and choreograph dance moves. Hmmm… I guess female dancers sit around eating bonbons and watching their stories throughout the day and somehow stay in great shape.
I have never been to a strip club, but I am confident that the female equivalent to La Bare would have girls of equal, if not higher caliber that work just as hard. Also, hello?!?!? What about burlesque shows? Unsurprisingly, La Bare is not going to become part of the curriculum for any gender studies class, though it may be a beneficial companion piece to Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.
However, despite my criticisms, La Bare is a great first-effort for Manganiello. Along with gaining the respect of his subjects through (sometimes painfully true) confessionals, Manganiello also found a way to let his sense of humor shine through. My personal favorite was the “amateur night” scene. He also allowed the men and the subject matter to shine and never stepped in front of the camera to give himself screen time. He doesn’t even make an appearance in the film until a two second spot in the credits. There is nothing worse than when a documentarian decides his face is one that we need to see throughout the film, regardless of necessity. Though I am always excited to see Manganiello’s face, I’m glad he went the way he did.
Although I did have some issues with the film, La Bare is never lacking in entertainment and shows Manganiello has a talent for directing. What can’t this man do?! Check out La Bare this weekend at the Angelika Pop-Up at Union Market in DC!
My Review: B/B-