Amber (Madonna) is a 40 year-old rich, bored wife, who is obsessed by fitness and uses her wealth and position to belittle others. Her husband Tony (Bruce Greenwood) organises a vacation on a private cruise from Greece to Italy, with two other couples, Maria (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and Michael (David Thornton), Todd (Michael Beattie) and Debi (Elizabeth Banks), but Amber takes an instant dislike to the ship’s first mate, Giuseppe (Adriano Giannini) and ridicules him. When Amber demands Giuseppe take her in a small boat to join her companions, the motor fails and they are shipwrecked together on a desert island.
Review by Louise Keller:
Don’t count on being swept away by this contrived, predictable shipwrecked romance, despite a few entertaining moments by its famous leading lady. Of course, it’s a vehicle for Madonna, and an opportunity for her to work with her husband Guy Ritchie, in this, his third film. It may seem a far cry for Ritchie to deviate from two British gangster flicks to a flippant and rather mindless romantic comedy, but I suspect this latest one will quickly be forgotten. But I don’t mean to be too harsh.
There are some cute ideas, and the first twenty minutes or so are mildly amusing in a superficial kind of way, as the idle rich holiday-makers fling upper class banalities at the Italian hands on board the yacht. Madonna’s super bitch is so over the top, that we never believe her character for a single second. Insults fly quicker than a swarm of bees heading for a hive, and unfortunately the script lacks wit, making it hard to sustain any kind of humour. Can you imagine a scene where Madonna’s Amber stops Giuseppe in the confines of the boat’s narrow passage, and wants him to dance with her – all while he is holding a freshly speared fish on his shoulder? But it does get worse.
The comedy of errors that lands the two sparring partners on the desert island erupts into an exchange of hysterical profundities, followed by Giuseppe’s rough and tough act, insisting on a swift reversal of roles and that Madam be Madam no longer, but that she call him Master and wash and fetch for him like a good trained puppy. The script here disintegrates into farce, with boring results. No prize for guessing who fares better in the survival stakes, while we endure lines like ‘I would rather f**k a pig than kiss you, Monkey Boy.”
What does work well though, is the fantasy sequence, when Giuseppe demands that Amber sing and dance for him. Amber’s attempts are pathetic, but the film reaches its high point, as the scene morphs into a fantasy segment. This is where Madonna is in her element, as she sells a fetching routine backed by a band of musos with oomph, wearing a glittering, body-hugging gown (Madonna, not the band). Once the inevitable happens, and Amber and Giuseppe are smitten with each other, there are some genuinely sweet moments as the romance unfolds. Madonna cuts a fine figure in a teeny weeny black bikini and watching her tenderise octopuses by thrashing them on the rocks (having discarded her rich bitch persona), gives the film a bit of renewed life. We almost get to like the pair who have become a couple by necessity rather than choice. Adriano Giannini brings some charm to Giuseppe, and it’s ironic that this, his first English language role, allows him to reprise the same role played by his father in the original 1974 film, directed by Lina Wertmüller.
There’s very little opportunity for the rest of the cast to have much impact, although Bruce Greenwood (Double Jeopardy) does a fine job as Amber’s husband. There is one rather poignant moment as Amber and Giuseppe are about to be rescued, when Amber reveals her insecurity. But it’s a big ask to go from farce to heart-felt truths, and we feel as though we are just going through the motions.
The ending makes an attempt at a truthful resolution, but whether or not there’s enough to entice you through 87 minutes of nonsense, despite the beautiful Mediterranean settings, is up to you.
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This is where Madonna is in her element, as she sells a fetching routine
SWEPT AWAY (M)
CAST: Madonna, Adriano Giannini, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Michael Beattie, Elizabeth Banks, Bruce Greenwood, David Thornton
PRODUCER: Matthew Vaughn
DIRECTOR: Guy Ritchie
SCRIPT: Lina Wertmüller (story by Lina Wertmüller, Guy Ritchie)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Alex Barber
EDITOR: Eddie Hamilton
MUSIC: Michel Colombier
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Russell De Rozario
RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 28, 2002