Guy Ritchie’s remake of Lina Wertmuller’s Swept Away…By an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August is not as bad as most critics would like you to believe. Yes, the first 30 minutes are virtually unwatchable. Where Mariangela Melato played Wertmuller’s rich society bitch with a smidgen of vulnerability, Madonna attacks Ritchie’s New York workout enthusiast with reckless constipation. The part seems to suit her well but had Madonna played Amber Leighton in Truth or Dare-mode, we’d already have next year’s Oscar winner. Gone completely is the class warfare between the film’s volatile leads, which means all the talk here about capitalism vs. communism amounts to a whole lot of horse shit once Madonna and Adriano Giannini are trapped on a deserted island. But in stripping Swept Away of its socio-political pretexts, Ritichie contemplates a fascinating, if not wholly successful, S&M fantasy scenario that’s less self-conscious and more interesting than the one Steven Shainberg’s presents in Secretary. Once Giuesppe Esposito (Giannini) slaps Amber in the face, the fun begins. Curiously, servitude and submission suits Madonna well. When cowering and begging at the feet a scruffy Giannini, she gives her best performance since Abel Ferrara had her beaten to a pulp in his Dangerous Game. Despite some unusual visual flourishes (a crane shot that evokes the couple’s personal uplifts), Ritchie’s direction feels unusually restrained. He does away with the original’s blissful rape. While the forced attack portrayed here mirrors Giuesppe’s need for dominance it may be more remarkable for the fact that Giannini and Madonna seem to be doing their own stunts. A fantasy sequence featuring William Saroyan and Ross Bagdasarian’s “Come On-A My House” perfectly mirrors the couple’s S&M tug of war and says everything that needs to be said about Giuesppe’s ideal woman. More importantly, though, Madonna is in her own element lip-syncing and trotting around in a Versace gown. Madonna purportedly wanted to keep the original film’s cynical ending while Ritchie wanted to make things happier. (Spoiler warning!) In the Wertmueller original, Raffaella (Melato) acknowledges her conditional love for Gennarino (Giancarlo Giannini) and refuses his marriage proposal. Here, Amber’s husband Anthony (Bruce Greenwood) makes the decision for her and without her knowledge. It’s clear that Madonna understands the original story better than Ritchie does and the film’s ridiculous finale is a testament to their sad compromise. Ritchie gets his rank sentimentality, disempowers Amber/Madonna and gives his wife the illusion that Amber and Giuesppe will be separated under her own terms.
- Guy Ritchie
- Guy Ritchie
- Madonna, Adriano Giannini, Bruce Greenwood, Jeanne Tripplehorn, David Thornton, Patrizio Rispo, Michael Beattie, Elizabeth Banks
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