Sunday, May 16, 2010

Worst of the Worst: #65, Swept Away

Who's the worst-acting musician? I've had reason to ponder this lately for a couple of reasons. When I went to see The Losers, I knew the movie was going to weak during the previews because there were trailers for one movie that starred Bow Wow and one that starred both T.I. and Chris Brown. Of course, Glitter was on this list of the worst movies of the last decade. I also finally watched Precious the other night and that had Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz (both who did wonderful jobs, but I'll leave that review for later). So who is the worst-acting musician? Off-hand, a few that occur to me are T.I. in American Gangster, Eminem in The Wash (he redeemed himself later in 8 Mile), and I've never seen From Justin to Kelly but that can't be good. It's at this point, for comic relief, that I have to insert Mase's acting job in the "Mo Money Mo Problems" video. I bring this up because I think, when you factor the greater implications of this movie, Madonna deserves more hate than any musician I can remember in the #65 film, Swept Away.

In a good premise, for which this film deserves no praise because it is a remake of a 1974 Italian film, Madonna plays a wealthy woman who goes on a private cruise from Greece to Italy with her husband and two other couples. She berates the boat's crew, particularly the fisherman, calling him names and constantly yelling at him. At some point, in an especially unbelievable turn of events, she and the fisherman end up stranded on a deserted island. Now that she is dependent on him for food, he turns the tables, essentially turning her into a slave. Once her will is broken (hello, disturbing rape fantasy), they fall madly in love and he wonders if she will still love him once they are rescued and back in regular life. Madonna deserves hate in this role because of her bad acting, for one. She starred in this movie after she had already begun to affect her fake British accent. With every "can't" that she turned into "cahn't" in this film, I kept wanting to yell at the screen, "You're from f***ing Michigan!" She plays a character that is supposed to be hated and I hated her, all right, but when she's supposed to be more sympathetic later in the movie, I still hated her. More than the acting, though, Madonna deserves hate because she single-handedly ruined (or, at best, derailed) a promising career.

With this film, Guy Ritchie is the best director to appear on this list. When he made this in 2002, he had only made two feature films, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. Both are among the great post-Pulp Fiction/ post-Clerks independent films of the late-'90s/ early-'00s. Ritchie showed a talent for witty scripts and quick-moving plots with plenty of twists. And then he wrote and directed Swept Away which is neither witty, quick-moving, nor very interesting. I'm going to assume that Madonna, then married to Ritchie, led him astray in making a starring vehicle for her. You can see his touch towards the beginning of the movie in some quick-cutting scenes where the boat's crew laughs about the rich Americans, but the second two-thirds of the movie are very, very unlike Ritchie's style. It's hard to imagine that he would have made this film without her influence. Yes, I have no evidence to back up this claim other than a few press videos where he looked hen-pecked, but Lock, Stock and Snatch were so good. And after Swept Away? He's made a couple of inconsequential films and finally got back in the spotlight with last year's Sherlock Holmes.

In Swept Away, dealing with a bad actress (by my count, there are three actors in the movie that are light years ahead of her, as Bruce Greenwood, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and Elizabeth Banks, all have smaller roles), Ritchie goes out of his way to put his wife in a good light. She's famous for singing and dancing? Okay, we'll make some scenes where she can either sing or lip-sync and dance in fancy clothes as the fisherman has a fantasy about her. In juggling this whole mess, Ritchie's screenplay entirely misses the political and social points of the original film. In the end, I didn't think or learn one thing about gender or class roles. None of it makes a difference by the closing credits. It ends up as a way to mock rich Americans, throw in the only rape-to-consensual-sex scene since James Bond and Pussy Galore in Goldfinger, and generally confuse the audience as to whether it's supposed to be a comedy or we're just laughing because it's so bad.

There have been musicians who have done well at acting. Meat Loaf in Fight Club, Eminem in 8 Mile, Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls, and more. I don't want everyone to keep their day jobs, but I'll have a certain amount of trepidation whenever someone decides to switch careers. I mean, have you heard
Scarlett Johansson's singing?

Okay, I'll be fair here before we finish. Ritchie uses a snippet of some bad Madonna song during the opening credits, but he has an inspired music choice later in the movie. As the two shipwrecked characters fall in love towards the end, a montage is graced with a much more palatable song that can't help but make you enjoy the moment a little bit. So I'll wrap this up the same way with that song, "Fade Into You" by Mazzy Star:

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