10.30.2008

Finally, Madonna gets some respect for her directorial debut

2 1/2 stars!!


As
if reading juicy details about Madonna and Guy Ritchie's divorce isn't
awkward enough, now the couple has competing movies opening on the same
day.

Ritchie has “RocknRolla,” a film about – surprise! – thugs in
London. Meanwhile, Madonna's directorial debut, “Filth and Wisdom,” is
about working folks in London (which is totally different than thugs).

Now,
given Madonna's infamous history with film (“Swept Away,” “Who's That
Girl?”) it would seem that her movie-directing ex would have the upper
hand in the battle for the box office.

But let's not forget Madonna's smarter choices.

Remember
“Desperately Seeking Susan” and “A League of Their Own?” Or even the
not-so-terrible “Evita,” which earned her a Golden Globe. For acting.

So, it's not totally incomprehensible that a movie directed by the Material Girl can actually be pretty good.

For
one thing, Madonna made the wise decision not to star in it. Besides a
few songs, she's never on screen. Her name doesn't even pop up until
the closing credits.

Instead, she's turned the spotlight on
Eugene Hutz, the lanky lead singer of the Gypsy-punk band Gogol
Bordello who starred as Alex in “Everything Is Illuminated” in 2005.

Hutz
plays AK, a grimy, poetry-spouting musician who loves sitting in an
empty bath tub and speaking straight into the camera. The narration is
an annoying and frequently used gimmick, but Hutz is so fun to watch
you forgive it after a while.

Here's where the Madonna stamp
comes in: AK earns a living by acting out erotic fetishes for mostly
homosexual customers. It tries to be shocking, especially with all that
pony play, but it comes across as a bit 1990s.

AK lives with a
ballerina-turned-stripper, Holly (Holly Weston), as well as a
pill-stealing pharmacist, Juliette (Vicky McClure). The dysfunctional
trio deals with their own disturbing issues, but are bonded in
friendship by their lack of money.

Juliette, like Madonna, has an
obsessive desire to help African children, a cause that may or may not
stem from an abusive father. Holly has to learn to be a stripper both
in mind and body, so we're treated to uncomfortable, voyeuristic shots
of her slithering on a pole.

And AK is trying to find his place
as an artist, so he idolizes his blind novelist neighbor. But he mostly
struggles to rid himself of his demons and make it as a musician.

The plot isn't the most earth-shattering stuff, but Madonna makes it so that you're intrigued and interested in her characters.

But
more fascinating is that the most famous person in the world (well,
isn't she?) could have spent tons of money getting A-list actors and
impeccable sets.

Instead, she cast unknowns and gave the film a
gritty, realistic feeling. It can almost be mistaken for one of those
lonely Vincent Gallo films.

As Madonna, she may not live in a
crowded London apartment or visit a neighborhood pharmacy, but she
translated her surroundings in a way that's believable rather than
cartoony (which Ritchie's films tend to be).

“Filth and Wisdom”
isn't a masterpiece. In fact, most critics hated it. But it's a much
more interesting glimpse of Madonna than those paparazzi shots of yoga
lessons and macrobiotic meals.

 source: San Diego Union Tribune