Comfortable and Furious

Swept Away (2002)

Somehow, this movie is as bad as everyone says. Actually, it’s not “somehow,” it’s Madonnahow. The best thing about this film is that it’s finally compelling people to see Madonna’s lack of talent. You’d think that she could at least play a conceited, rich pain in the ass. If they were smart, they wouldn’t have even told her they were filming a movie. “Guy! What fuck are all those cameras doing here?”

“I’ve hired a full crew to do our home movies. Just be yourself honey. Look, I bought you that book you wanted, Jewish Mysticism in Five Minutes A Day.” I saw this next point on a message board, but I’m going to steal it. You can tell how bad an actor Madonna is by the fucking stills from this movie (see bellow). Holy shit. I’d love to see someone edit out all of the non-being-hit Madonna scenes, like they did with Jar-Jar. They could even take those Jar-Jar scenes and use them to replace the Madonna scenes and still greatly improve the film. The two or three scenes without Madonna are pretty good. Nice photography. Guy Ritchie can still direct.

The other actors in the film are pretty good too, including Adriano Giannini. He took some heat for this performance, including some from Matt, but remember, he’s acting opposite Madonna. The actors feed off each other’s performances, so Giannini is in a tough spot. Where would Run be if he was in a group with Snow, instead of DMC? Run-Snow would suck, and if you didn’t think about it, it would seem like Run sucked just because he was part of Run-Snow, when it would actually all be Snow’s fault. I do think Giannini is the wrong guy for the part. He’s too handsome and strapping. It worked better in the original, when his more rodent-like father played the part. A big theme of the story is that roles and needs can change totally in a new context. Suddenly this weasely little peasant is the paragon of manhood to an aristocratic woman because he’s the strongest man around and can catch a fish in a situation where catching fish is all that matters. But that is all the more reason to give the son some due. He’s miscast, he’s acting opposite a black hole and he still does a decent job.

Madonna aside, the other, less serious fault of this film is that it is a fundamentally bad idea. I’m going to steal another point I saw someone else make on the internet and ask, why do they remake films that are good the way they are? Why not remake films that were good ideas, poorly executed? The original Swept Away is just fine, in spite of the fact that the idea was unlikely to work the first time. It’s about a commie peasant who gets stranded with a fascist, aristocratic type. He beats, starves and degrades her until she submits and loves it, eventually coming to love him and find true happiness under his thumb (oddly enough, the film was made by a women and women seem to love it.

My girlfriend loves it too, but when I threaten to smack her if she doesn’t wash the master’s clothes, she just laughs). When the lovers escape the island, the context changes again and he’s back to being a weasely little peasant. She leaves him, he’s stuck with his wife, who isn’t so eager to submit. This new version takes away the communism and fascism, takes away the wife at home and takes away most of the beating and domination. It even undoes a lot of that stuff. Madonna physically hurts Giannini more than he ever does her and, later, she learns to catch her own fish and the dominant/submissive aspect of the relationship erodes. So what’s the point?


Ritchie and his producer did the commentary. I began listening because I wanted to hear them defend one of the most reviled films of the year. I wound up listening to the whole thing because it’s pretty entertaining. These guys are hilarious. I laughed out loud at least five times. They never say what the point of the film is though.

Ruthless Ratings

  • Number of times you left the ratings to Matt: 1

Matt’s never heard the phrase, “Pulling your punches.”

I’ll admit it: Swept Away wasn’t nearly as bad as I had been led to believe. Still, if one is expecting soul-killing, wrist-slitting madness and gets only mind-numbing pain instead, it can hardly be called an artistic triumph for the ages. Again, Swept Away is garbage from top to bottom; a misguided project without any merit whatsoever outside of its inevitable inclusion in all conversations related to bad cinema. But I won’t say that it’s the worst film I have ever seen. I won’t even say that it was the worst film I saw this year.

When one can witness the car crash that is Swept Away and still believe that Men in Black II is worse, it is the Smith/Jones atrocity that must stand tall as the most likely film to be used in some underground lair of torture and despair. That said, I will not let Madonna off the hook so easily. While the film had brief flashes – mere seconds – of watchability, Madonna’s performance was, and will remain, one of the most horrendous in the history of the screen. Even Ed Wood would have turned her away in auditions. She is so irredeemably bad, so strained, mannered, forced, and pathetic that if she is not awarded the Razzie for Worst Actress, all hope for justice is lost. If this doesn’t kill her career and force her to accept her complete and total lack of talent, I simply give up and will retreat to the nearest cave to contemplate my premature exit from this, the most brutal of all possible worlds.

For anyone who cares, or has plans to rent this fiasco, let me set the scene. Madonna plays a rich, spoiled, bitchy heiress (a stretch no method actor could handle, right?) who takes a pleasure cruise with her husband and several friends. The crew, consisting of Guy Ritchie favorites, also includes an acid-tongued Italian fisherman played by Adriano Giannini (the son of the very man who starred in the 1975 original). He is a proud Marxist, she a devoted free market cunt, and they spar endlessly as she tried to humiliate him at every turn.

They fight about dinner, the lack of exercise equipment on board, and of course, being a Madonna movie, the merits of capitalism. These discussions are painful to watch, primarily because a Madonna/economics combination is about as warranted (and believable) as the Brittany Murphy/art history indulgence in Just Married. These fights, ridiculous as they are, find a way to be even more irritating as director Guy Ritchie, a man with as firm a hold on untalented hack-ness as his wife, insists on making these scenes “funny” with frantic camerawork and editing. You can dress up steamy, maggot-ridden shit all you like Guy, but it remains firmly, unchangeably shit.

These early scenes, intended to establish the decadence of Madonna and her ilk (they drink fine wine, play high-stakes poker, and sunbathe topless) are contrasted with Giannini’s earthy wholesomeness. He is a man of the sea – a working man – and I assume Ritchie expects us to sympathize with his plight. That might be the case in another movie, but Giannini manages to keep up blow-for-blow with Madonna in the bad acting competition, and Madonna scores a victory only because she is far easier to hate.

When they are lost at sea after Madonna insists on taking a dingy ride to see some caves (despite being warned that the weather could turn ugly any minute), we are forced to watch them bicker even more as they contemplate dying of hunger and thirst. After a scuffle whereby Madonna punctures the craft with a flare gun, the pair floats in a storm until they reach a deserted island. The real scenery chewing is about to begin.

After they wash ashore, Giannini turns the tables on Madonna and begins a process of humiliation meant to teach poor Madonna a lesson. Because only he can find fish and fresh water, she is at his mercy. He pushes her down, calls her a bitch, slaps her in the face, and demands that she treat him like a god (which includes kissing his feet). In one of the most inexplicable scenes, Giannini forces her to sing and dance and his mind fantasizes that she is backed by a full band while belting “Come on-a My House.” Outside of giving the vanity of Madonna a good stroking, I’m not sure what purpose this scene serves. Far from being humorous, it only made me hate her more.

Despite this being a deserted island, the pair finds a cabin (complete with dozens of candles for later sex scenes) and lives out their days in this “comical” role-reversal. But wouldn’t you know it, the two begin to fall for each other! Apparently the two cannot help but love each other, what with all the violence, insults, and brutality going on. After the love begins, there are endless scenes of music video loveliness, complete with sunsets, crashing waves, and ear-splitting music.

Should I care? These people are so repellant, so beneath contempt as human beings, that I am hard pressed to find a more blatant display of arrogance on the part of a filmmaker. Listen up Mr. Ritchie, you married the bitch; I don’t want to watch your home movies and self-aggrandizing propaganda. You might find her endearing as she changes her ways, but I merely wanted to strangle her by the end after initially wanting to roast her over an open flame.

Before they are rescued, there is one more scene of unmatched horror – the wacky game of charades set to music. Of course. The English language does not provide me with adequate terminology to describe these minutes of pain and wretchedness, so I will ask that you see it for yourself. Let me say only that they combine the complete absence of wit found in DVD outtakes with a level of narcissistic preening usually found in reality television. I firmly believe that Ritchie (and the crew, after receiving a few intimidating glares from the director) found this scene hilarious and charming, of which it is neither – in spades. Outside of being purple with embarrassment for these two decidedly moronic creatures, I wanted only the comforts that alcohol-induced oblivion can provide.

As the rescue boat closes in, Madonna cries her little heart out and asks that they run away and spend the rest of their lives on the island. She loves this man, you see, and she has never known such authenticity and joy. Still, the boat arrives and Madonna runs back to her husband. She still loves the fisherman, but she knows that she cannot escape her destiny as a whore with a large bank account. Giannini tries desperately to win her back, only to watch her helicopter fly away into the sunset.

Once again, are we meant to sympathize with a woman whose so-called “transformation” consisted only of going from intolerably bitchy to unbearably annoying? She might have “shaped up,” but she is now so passive and dull that she is arguably more alive as a shrew. Still, the real Madonna is there throughout – a woman of god-like ego and self-absorption, a woman who obviously worked out for months on end before the role, to the point that she has more definition than most body builders. Rather than being sexy, her hard body is, for me, only a reminder that this 40-ish clown refuses to age gracefully. You are a mother now, Madonna, not some hot young star with a world to conquer. Please go away.

When the history of cinema is written, few will take notice of Swept Away, except to say that it was perhaps unwise for Ritchie to attempt a remake when he refused to watch the original (he said he didn’t want to read subtitles). Yet, Madonna’s performance will, I daresay, always have a place in our hearts. She outdoes Body of Evidence with her unusually bad line delivery (not one word is uttered with conviction); and manages to completely erase any hope we had for her after the surprisingly watchable Evita.

Madonna, with to her freakishly inept husband, have achieved status as the world’s most useless couple. They are two half-wits; so unable to see beyond pampered lives that they cannot admit that cinema is not the arena for their self-indulgent ramblings. And, with hundreds of well-paid yes-men in their inner circle, no one is left (outside of critics, who are no doubt dismissed as “elitist fucks”) to set them straight. As always, such delusions hurt others the most.

Ruthless Ratings:

  • Overall: 2
  • Acting: 0 (the worst cast ever assembled)
  • Directing: 0 (at least Ed Wood had a lack of money as a defense)
  • Re-watchability: 1 (I might need to see the charade scene again)
  • DVD Extras: a Guy Ritchie commentary that I didn’t dare listen to