Photo: Neon
Before We Vanish by Steven Warner Film

This One’s For the Ladies | Gene Graham

July 8, 2019

This One’s For the Ladies promises to deliver the goods that a major studio flick like Magic Mike could never accomplish — namely naked, erect penises, in all their veiny glory. And that it does in spades, taking full advantage of its NC-17 rating. But for all that, director Gene Graham doesn’t seem to have enough faith in his subject matter, a group of black male strippers who have made a name for themselves on the East Coast. What starts off as a loving tribute to these brash men — and the women who love them — soon becomes a half-assed portrait of racial and economic inequality. On its face, this glimpse through a unique cultural window certainly feels admirable, but 83 minutes is not nearly enough time to affectingly delve into any particular individual or story, and the connection between male stripping and our current political climate is tenuously constructed.

This is all the more frustrating because each of Graham’s subjects is fascinating in their own right, from OG strippers Tyga and Raw Dawg, to church choir director and Satan-lover C-Pudding, to the lone female stripper, Blaze (yes, they all have cool names). And on top of that, we are left to figure out what to make of the film’s portrait of another stripper, Fever, whose scenes feel like cut material from a Christopher Guest mockumentary and especially mean-spirited in comparison to everything else. Ultimately, the entire stripping aspect feels like mere window dressing, a frustrating miscalculation in that it is so obviously the most interesting angle. If there’s one thing you would think Green would know after spending so much time with his subjects, it’s that no one likes a tease.

Published as part of June 2019’s Before We Vanish.