Cinematic Hell: Swept Away (2002)
Intro to the Madness
Wow it's been awhile since I even looked at my repentance list, After the disaster known as "The Haunting" (1999) I needed a break. But I know my bosses will extend my sentence in Cinematic Hell if I slack off any longer. So lets see... oh my Cinematic Gods! You've got to be kidding me... another remake?! And this one stars.... MADONNA!?
Yes, apparently it's time to look at one of the biggest box office bombs of the last decade and it might even be one of the biggest box office bombs of the century. Swept Away is a remake of an Italian art house film directed by famed Italian director Lina Wertmuller. We'll talk about the original film shortly. First let's talk a little bit about the remake's history. Swept Away (2002) is the last real film Madonna starred in (unless you count that animated film Arthur and the Invisibles) and she was at the time married to writer/director Guy Ritchie. This film was truly Madonna's last ditch effort to be a real Hollywood actress. However, nobody liked this film at all. It doesn't matter if you're a critic or part of the general movie going public, most likely you will hate this movie. It scored a 5% on Rotten Tomatoes and the film bombed big time at the box office. Swept Away (2002) had a budget of $10 Million and made back domestically...$598,000. From a financial standpoint, I see why Madonna finally decided to stop acting like she could act her way out of a paper bag. But why is this movie remembered as a notorious flop alongside Battlefield Earth (2000) and The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002)? Well like any other time we look at a remake, we need to briefly examine the original source material. So get ready to get lost at sea, this is the extensive review of the Swept Away movies.
Swept Away By an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August (1974)
Lina Wertmuller's version of Swept Away is indeed very... unusual. A rich woman along with her rich husband and rich friends are taking a private cruise from Greece to Italy. The rich woman is quite mean and demanding of deckhand Giuseppe (Giancarlo Giannini) . However, this woman and this deckhand get shipwrecked on a deserted island while traveling on a dingy. Deckhand Giuseppe now has the upper hand over this rich woman because he's the only one who knows how to survive in the wild. He makes her call him "master", waits on him constantly, makes her beg for food and a lot of other things. Then things get...uncomfortable. Giuseppe gets physical with the woman. He slaps her around and at one point attempts to rape her. Strange thing is, Stockholm Syndrome sets in and the once proud rich woman falls in love with her "master". The rest of the film plays out as some sort of tragic love story and my uncomfortable levels go through the roof.
Despite how awkward and unpleasant this movie comes across, I think it really wants to make the audience uncomfortable. I knew this movie wasn't about love or battle of the sexes. These two characters and their very "unusual destiny" go a lot deeper than both of those issues. Throughout the film, both characters talk of nothing but politics. In fact, all of the characters seem to talk about nothing but Capitalism VS. Communism. So it's clear this movie is more about politics than a crazy love story that involves a lot of hitting. So in a way, I applaud this movie for it's bold storytelling and the way it pushes the buttons of it's audience. That being said, it's hard to recommend it because it's clearly not a movie for everybody. Even I'm not sure if I would ever watch this movie again.
However if you're into a no holds barred kind of movie that is very dialogue and politics driven then the original Swept Away can be a good movie to watch once. Score: 6.5/10
Swept Away (2002)
Even though the original Swept Away is regarded as a classic among art house fans and fans of independent filmmaking, it's not really a movie the general public know or even remember. So from a financial standpoint, I have no idea why a remake would be even necessary. If the remake wanted to pay homage to the original and call attention to it's bold storytelling with an updated version of Swept Away (1974) then at the very least I could respect the remake's existence in modern cinema. But that's not why this movie was made. This movie was made for only on reason: Guy Ritchie and his then wife Madonna wanted to make a movie together. This movie just so happens to be a movie beyond both their reaches of understanding.
Plot structure wise, the remake is quite faithful to the 1974 original. Amber (Madonna) her rich husband Anthony (Bruce Greenwood) and their rich friends are on a private cruise from Greece to Italy. Amber is demanding and rude to Giuseppe (now played by Giannini's son Adriano). They both get stranded on a deserted island and all the other uncomfortable I mentioned happens here but it's not done very well. In fact, everything else in this remake is not done very well at all. Even when you try to separate this movie from the original, it's just unbelievably terrible and wrong.
One thing that's really missing in the remake here is of course good acting. You know, there's only so many ways I can say Madonna can't act. But her terrible acting is even more of a trouble here because it's clear this role was written for Madonna. This character is even more bitchy than her original 1974 counter part and Madonna still can't pull off the rich bitch role. Poor Adriano Giannini, he's trying so hard to make this role work but he's so dreadfully miscast. His father was actually intimidating and wasn't meant to be a character you root for. In the remake, the Giuseppe character is meant to be likeable and yet intimidating at the same time. I have no idea if this is the actor's fault or if the script really is that inane. I'm leaning towards the latter honestly.
Another big thing missing in this remake is the political conflict surrounding the original story. I mean they bring up the whole Capitalism and Communism thing maybe twice but really the main focus of this version is the romance which is even more of a question mark here than it was in the original. The love connection between these two characters happens out of nowhere with no build up or any pacing. When watching this movie, it almost feels like two movies are fighting each other and the movie Madonna wanted wins. This movie unintentionally or otherwise pretty much says what happens to Madonna's character is a good thing and that's even more disturbing than anything in the original film. It also doesn't help that Giannini and Madonna have no real on screen chemistry at all.
Whether or not you like the original Swept Away, at the very least there was something to interpret and talk about. The remake offers nothing as an adaptation or as a stand alone movie. The original Swept Away clearly has a message and is very confident in delivering it. The Madonna vanity project has no idea what's even trying to say. The concept is confused, the acting is poor, the writing is amateurish and the political messages that made the original film work is completely absent. This film is not worth watching, not even on an ironic level. Just avoid at all costs, Score: 1/10 (at least it makes you want to visit Italy and Greece with it's nice visuals).