A review of “Swept Away” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: * 1/2

Rating: R for language, some nudity

Run Time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

 

 

Guy Ritchie needs to stick with what he knows best – frenzied mob capers like “Snatch” – and leave his wife’s career where it belongs - offscreen.

Ritchie owes Lina Wertmüller an apology or two for even considering a “contemporary adaptation” of her controversial love story, “Swept Away…by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August” (1974) .  Missing from his stale, TV-movie-of-the-week re-telling is Wertmüller’s pivotal theme; the emotionally complex condition of a woman falling for a man who’s abusing her, both emotionally and physically.  Also noticeably absent are humor, drama, and pathos.

The excruciatingly rich and bored Amber (Madonna) boards a converted fishing boat cruising from Greece to Italy, along with her outrageously wealthy (and placating) hubby (Bruce Greenwood), a passel of sycophantic guests, and guarantees of gourmet eats, a private gym, and a departure from their standard exotic vacations.

Forced into an amenities-free holiday sans elliptical trainer or masseuse, Amber focuses her contemptuous rage on the ship’s first mate, Giuseppe, aka Pepe (Adriano Giannini). Amber’s bitchy asides and slave-labor tactics gall the sanguine Pepe, who resents his American clients and every privilege they stand for.  When Amber demands that Pepe take her out in the dingy for a spontaneous cave exploration (despite his protestations of advancing darkness and weather), she naturally gets her way. 

And how.  The boat’s motor fails, and Amber and Pepe wash up on a deserted island with no food, shelter, or water. With no societal hierarchy at hand, the scales of justice tip significantly. Amber finds herself in the unimaginable position of relying on Pepe, who in turn retaliates with a vengeance. 

No, this is not a bold depiction of gender relations, nor does it challenge a higher consciousness.  The cat-and-mouse games that develop into an adult relationship are common and degrading, glazed with a tawdry B-movie scum.

Lush Mediterranean scenery is gorgeous and accounted for, courtesy of location shoots on Malta and the nearby island of Comino.  Madonna reeks of desperate self-consciousness, and Giannini (inheriting the role his father made famous almost thirty years ago) is merely good to look at.  Ugh, ugh, ugh.