“This One’s for the Ladies,” which exposes the private lives of male exotic dancers, is a rare documentary to be released with an NC-17 rating — a classification that, in this instance, seems as much about marketing as anything else. The whole point of the film is to desexualize stripping: to show it as a job, its practitioners as hard-working performers and their clients as looking for escape.
The director, Gene Graham, has said he made the movie in part as a response to the lack of diversity in “Magic Mike.” The subjects are mostly African-American; the focus is on a New Jersey troupe known as the Nasty Boyz and the group’s regular clients. (Even the clients go by nicknames like Poundcake and Double Trouble.)
The insights are not groundbreaking. Stripping pays well, especially when viewed in a context of profound economic inequality. The dancers and their patrons are shown as everyday parents and spouses. Sweet Tee, an M.C., says that she’s shy and that her presenter’s persona is just for the club. Tarayyah, the daughter of a dancer named Raw Dawg, says her father’s work is “O.K. by me.”
Despite discussions of history and racial tension — there’s a brief aside about traditions of African dancing that predate slavery, and one client attends a rally in Washington, D.C., to protest racially charged shootings by the police — the movie’s determination to make stripping mundane has a way of infecting the film. Even the dancing sequences, often shot in poor lighting as if on a smartphone camera, look perfunctory.
This One’s for the Ladies
Rated NC-17. Consider it a bargain — some clubs are 21 and older. Running time: 1 hour 22 minutes.