Review by Dustin Putman
2 stars out of 4
With such negative pre-release buzz and a studio that has decided
to unceremoniously dump it into less than 200 screens, how could anyone
walk into a theater showing "Swept Away" and not expect a disaster?
Despite be based on an acclaimed 1974 Italian film of the same name
and directed by the respected Guy Ritchie (2000's "Snatch"), nearly
any film starring Madonna (2000's "The Next Best Thing") somehow has
a curse placed upon it. She may still be one of the top recording
artists, but Madonna will never be mistaken for a master thespian or a box-office draw.
The first half of "Swept Away" more or less lives up to its already
notorious reputation. The drawn-out setup is maddeningly slow and
uninteresting, with two lead protagonists who are about as shallow
and despicable as they come. They are Amber Leighton (Madonna), a
snooty rich bitch who has boarded a yacht with her husband (Bruce
Greenwood) and friends, and Giuseppe Esposito (Adriano Giannini),
a poor deckhand mocked by the vacationers. While out on a raft traveling
to pick up fresh fish in the nearest town, the motor dies on Amber
and Giuseppe. When a clumsy accident leaves them without even aquatic
transportation, they become stranded on a deserted island. With no
way of fending for herself, Amber becomes a literal slave to Giuseppe
in exchange for nourishment.
With no one to impress or put down, Amber is stripped of all her stuck-up
pretenses and falls madly in love with Giuseppe. The film immeasurably
improves in this second half, to the point where it seems like it
was taken over by a more accomplished filmmaker at the helm. As much
as the viewer actively dislikes Amber and Giuseppe at the onset, their
transformation and the love story that grows out of their situations
are genuinely romantic, if not completely plausible.
Madonna is not nearly as bad as she often tends to be on film, perhaps
because her character of Amber isn't far from her past persona. At
any rate, her performance improves along with the film as it plays
out, and she successfully radiates chemistry with Adriano Giannini,
as male chauvinist Giuseppe. She even manages to carry out her dramatic
moments with reasonable aplomb. Their characters are bores alone,
without much of interest to ever say. When they play scenes together
without dialogue, however, they simmer. A montage late in the picture
scored to "Fade Into You" by Mazzy Star, is more magical that could
have ever been expected after suffering through the dreary first hour.
Had Guy Ritchie's screenplay have been actually good, he might have
had another winner with "Swept Away." Unfortunately, the film is drastically
uneven and the character's physically abusive actions more than a
little outdated for present-day audiences. The sincere finale of undone
actions and unspoken truths, meant to evoke tears from viewers along
with the characters, is about as well-done as could be expected for
a flawed piece of work like this that doesn't deserve the payoff it
strives for. "Swept Away" is a mediocre melodrama, lugubrious in tone,
but there are good things about it. More than expected. Not enough to recommend it.
Copyright © 2002 Dustin Putman