November 26, 2015
Todd: This is it. This is the last one.
- Clip of Madonna interview on Today with the Above & Beyond remix of "What It Feels Like for a Girl" playing in the background.
Todd (VO): The last time that Madonna ever tried to be an actress. She has stated, for the record, that she would never be seen on camera trying to act again; and 13 years later, she has kept that promise. [Clip of behind-the-scenes featurette] The film that led to her decision was Swept Away—a vehicle for her and her new husband, British director Guy Ritchie.
- Red carpet footage of the couple
Now, just like the last time she got married, this was a celebrity couple that, from the outside, didn't really make any sense at all. For one, this was a power couple with a serious power imbalance. Madonna was way more famous than Ritchie, who'd only made two films at that point. She was also ten years older than him and they were from two entirely different fields of showbiz, unless you consider Madonna part of the film world, which...
Todd: ...you should not.
- Clips of Guy Ritchie interviews
Todd (VO): And just persona-wise, it was difficult to see what Madonna had in common with Ritchie. He was just this beer-drinking, UFC-watching dude-bro.
Todd: Or lad-bloke, as they say in his country.
- Clips from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch
Todd (VO): And while him making a movie with her was inevitable, his movies were violent comedies about London gangsters, so it was hard to imagine what kind of movie they could possibly make together.
Todd: What they eventually turned out...
- Clip of trailer for the movie
Todd (VO): ...was a remake of a foreign arthouse movie, of all things. And despite, or perhaps because of the great amount of tabloid publicity attracted by the new couple, the movie bombed hard, making it basically the Gigli of 2002. [Posters of Shanghai Surprise and Swept Away] Yes, she's made two Giglis in her life. The reception was so awful that Madonna decided that enough was enough. This is the one that was so bad that, after more than 15 years of bad movies, she decided to finally, finally give it up.
Todd: So how bad it is? Well, let's watch.
To understand where Swept Away fails, first you have to know what it's remaking.
- Original movie
Todd (VO): The original, Swept Away... by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August, is an Italian movie from 1974 directed by Lina Wertmüller, [picture of Lina] seen here looking exactly like how you imagined a female Italian director from the '70s. The story is, there's this rich bitch taking an Italian cruise, and this deckhand fisherman who she treats like dirt because she's rich and she can. But after a short excursion on a dinghy goes bad, they get lost at sea and wash up on a tiny deserted island in the Mediterranean. And now he has all the leverage and she needs him because he's the only one who knows how to survive and catch food and start a fire, so ha ha.
Todd: Shoe's on the other foot now, ho ho ho!
- Clips of Gennarino (Giancarlo Giannini) smacking Rafaella (Mariangela Melato) around
Todd (VO): Oh yeah, he smacks her around a lot. Like...a lot. A lot. And makes her call him Master, wait on him hand and foot, beg for food, do the laundry, even threatens to rape her at one point. And get this: this is all part of his plan to make her go Stockholm syndrome and fall in love with him.
Todd: And his plan totally works.
Todd (VO): Yeah, it turns out that getting pimp-slapped back into the kitchen is just what she always wanted. So they fall in love, and it's all very romantic. It's a love story for the ages. But then, they get rescued, the world tears them apart again, and the movie plays it like it's this heartbreaking tragedy and you're supposed to feel bad for them, and...yeah.
Todd: I did mention a woman directed this, right?
Todd (VO): Okay, obviously, this seems a little hard to defend. My first instinct is to dismiss the whole thing as pointlessly hateful and ugly. But it is regarded as a classic, and...
Todd: ...honestly, I can at least see why it might be.
Todd (VO): First off, there's a good chance that the movie is just screwing with you. It might be...
Todd: ...meant to be ironic or just simple trolling maybe, but it's definitely trying to push some buttons, and I don't think you're supposed to just take it at face value.
Todd (VO): Secondly, there's a good chance that this is not actually a movie about romance or gender politics at all. It's about...
Todd: ...you know, actual politics.
Todd (VO): The dude is a Marxist, she's a capitalist. It's literally all they seem to talk about. So this movie's probably more about class warfare than battle of the sexes.
Todd: Look, I don't know if I buy any of those defenses, but...
Todd (VO): ...I do at least see how it might not be just a jerk-off fantasy for assholes. But yeah, that's your original. How in the world do you make a Madonna vanity project out of that?
Todd: Well, obviously, all that stuff is gonna be way too edgy, so...
- The Madonna remake. Peppe (Adriano Giannini) dumps a bowl of food on Amber's (Madonna) head and tosses her overboard.
Todd (VO): ...why don't we dumb the whole thing down, take out all the uncomfortable parts, all the stuff about politics too, and you know, why don't we just turn this into a stupid comedy.
- Peppe: Now Peppe is in charge.
- Amber: [snapping him out of the fantasy] You listening to me, nature boy?
- Peppe: Yes?
Todd (VO): Yeah, uh...this remake is obviously not going to be a provocative exploration of sex and power. It's just going to be a doofy rehash of [DVD cover art for...] Overboard.
- Clips from The Next Best Thing
Todd (VO): ...Madonna was terrible in the last movie because she was supposed to be relatable and likable, and she couldn't pull it off.
So why not let her be unsympathetic, right? Maybe that's a better use of her talents.
- Amber: ANTHONY!
- Look, I don't care if it's fuking, puking, or a fucking Kung Fu king.
- Guido! [whistles]
- You blinded me!
- Are we being punished because we're rich?
Todd: [face buried in hands] Oh my God, kill me.
Todd (VO): Having now watched her entire career from start to finish, it's astonishing how little progress she's made as an actress. She is just awful in this. I hate her.
Todd: Yeah, I know, I'm supposed to hate her, but it's the wrong kind of hate.
Todd (VO): I don't want to see her taken down a peg, I just want her gone. I want her off my screen. I want a German sub to torpedo the boat and sink it to the bottom of the Mediterranean so that I can go watch something else.
- Amber: What's in the coffee pot, Pee-Pee?
- Peppe: Coffee, madam.
- Amber: Reheated coffee? What am I supposed to do with that?
Todd (VO): There's just absolutely no way in human history that anybody could be this cruel and stupid. Even in the original, it was nowhere close to this melodramatic, and that was a movie full of screaming Italians.
- Brief clip from original
- Pavone (Riccardo Salvino): [translated] THIRTY YEARS!!! THE SAME IDIOTS THIRTY YEARS!!!
Todd (VO): Like, the rich lady was just snotty and demanding and rude, she wasn't deliberately abusive and outwardly racist like Madonna is. Like, from the very first moment on-screen, she's just evil and awful.
- Amber: I did not fly all the way from New York City to wherever the fuck we are to get on that.
Todd (VO): This performance would be over-the-top if she were playing Skeletor!
Todd: Will say this though: the tail-end of Madonna's...
Todd (VO): ...film career is a pretty interesting exploration of her growing insecurity about her looks. Remember, Madonna's still hot, guys. Still very hot. No reason to think she isn't hot anymore.
So yeah, it all plays out pretty similarly to this point, except for the over-the-top craziness 'cause Guy Ritchie and restraint don't really go together. Oh, but here's one major difference. [Clip from original] In the original, their dinghy's motor breaks, and once they finally fix it, they're lost at sea and they run out of gas and they wash up on shore. This is how it goes down in the remake.
- Amber: [seeing the yacht in the distance] Oh, my God.
- Peppe: Come on, shoot. [Amber tries to shoot the flare gun, but it doesn't fire] Shoot! Give it to me.
- Amber: I know what I'm do...
- [She fires the gun downward, deflating the boat in the sea]
Todd (VO): Yeah, it's not enough that the character be a bitch, she also...
Todd: ...has to be a complete idiot, too. Great.
Todd (VO): Okay, so yes, they're on the island now, and obviously, it's not gonna be as, you know, sexual assault-y with the hitting and everything. But you know, it is time to start showing this screaming harpy who's the boss now.
- Amber: [as Peppe lounges] Thank you...Master...for letting me wash your clothes.
Todd: [again, face buried] Christ, this is a douchey movie.
- Peppe shuts a shack door on Amber
- Amber: What are you doing, Mr. Esposito?
Todd: Ha ha ha, showed you.
- Amber: Give me some fucking fish, you scumbag!
- [Amber slaps Peppe, who slaps her in response]
Todd is suddenly alert
- Peppe opens the door of the shack, slaps Amber, then shuts the door on her
- Peppe: You forget yourself again, woman.
Todd: [long pause] I really didn't think they were gonna go there.
- Peppe: You wait on me now. Move!
Todd (VO): So, um...I was wrong.
- Peppe: Hand! Kiss it!
Todd (VO): This is actually a much more faithful remake than I expected, um...including the rape threat? Yep, it is.
- Peppe: Are you saying yes?
- Amber: Yes.
- Peppe: Well, it's no. Because I'm saying no. We must fall in love.
Todd: So, uh...yeah.
Todd (VO): Turns out the rest of the movie is exactly the same plotwise. He does the Stockholm syndrome thing, she falls in love, it's very romantic, they get rescued even though she doesn't want to be rescued, but he insists because he wants to know if their love is strong enough to withstand it, and it turns out not to be, and it's very sad...I guess. Holy Christ.
But even though the plot is almost identical, literally every justification I can find for the original doesn't work here. For example, here's one major difference in this version. While Peppe is humiliating Madonna, he makes her dance for him, and then, this happens.
- Dance sequence complete with backing band playing "Come On-a My House"
- Amber: [lip-syncing Rosemary Clooney] Come on-a my house, my house, I'm gonna give you candy
Todd: What the hell is going on?
Todd (VO): Look at the expression on the dude's face. Does he think this is literally happening? And keep in mind, this is supposed to be Madonna's character at her lowest. By throwing in a bizarre-o, lip-synced vanity music video for Madonna, they are literally putting the most attractive light possible on a story where a man tames the shrew by smacking her in the teeth.
And that goes down to the casting, too. Like, this guy is actually the son of the guy who played this role in the original. But the difference between father and son...
Todd: ...is vast.
- Clip from original
Todd (VO): His dad was, like, this hairy ape of a man with a serious case of crazy eyes, and the character was, like, this full-on caveman, "is Wayne Brady gonna have to choke a bitch" violent chauvinist. They don't try to make him likable at all.
But they sure do in the remake, where he's more like this male model-looking, sensitive European man who cares about nature and shit. So, even with how awful Madonna's character is, the dude's transformation into Chris Brown comes right out of goddamn nowhere. And then they romp on the beach, and they're very happy. Look, they play charades. It's hard to escape the idea that this movie exists entirely because Madonna wanted to make her own How Stella Got Her Groove Back where she gets to lounge around in a bikini and drape herself over a hot, younger man with a sexy accent.
Todd: Except, of course, there's all the hitting!
- Peppe: Apparently you had everything.
- Amber: Maybe what I wanted wasn't what I needed.
Todd (VO): What I needed was to be beaten like a dog. Thank you for showing me my place.
Todd: I legitimately have no idea...
Todd (VO): ...why Ritchie and Madonna decided to remake this movie. It's very clear that at least one, maybe both of them, don't really get the original. Whatever layer of irony was the original, is completely absent here. So it's basically just a straightforward endorsement of showing females the back of your hand. It's like [picture of Quark from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine] Ferengis made this. [Clip of...] And for what it's worth, this is not all that dissimilar to a BMW commercial short film they made together, where Madonna also gets humiliated.
Todd: Yeah, it certainly makes me speculate about what was going on in their marriage.
Todd (VO): Like I said, even though she doesn't want to be rescued, they both get rescued, and Madonna's husband uses his money to muscle him out of the picture, and Madonna's too weak to stop it. And so ends this grand romance, to which I have decided to give the rare [text appears] Legitimately Not a Better Love Story than Twilight Award. We've found the one.
Like I said, every Madonna movie is bad in its own way, and in this case, it's just icky and wrong. It's a profoundly unpleasant movie, and the reception was rightfully brutal. It didn't even make it to theaters in Ritchie's home country. His career didn't really recover until after the divorce, and thus Madonna acting career ending in the only way it could: in spectacular, disastrous embarrassment.
Todd: But really, acting is such a common, pedestrian ambition anyway. What Madonna really wanted to do was direct.
- Clip of trailer
- The Directorial Debut of Madonna
Closing tag song: Rosemary Clooney - "Come On-a My House"
"Swept Away" is owned by Screen Gems
This video is owned by me
THANK YOU TO THE LOYAL PATRONS!