13 September 2008

At the movies: Filth and Wisdom.

Dear Madonna;

Seriously, what's up? Your directorial debut is kind of a mess, and moreso, it's a really dull and sitcommy mess that feels like it could have been made by anyone. You've made art that I've loved, and you've made art that I have not loved, but you've never before made art that I found dull and impersonal, so I'm concerned.

Eugene Hutz is a dynamic screen presence (he pretty much owned Everything is Illuminated), so I'm intrigued to see him as one of the leads. But by building so much of not only his character but much of the film's narrative engine around the music of his band Gogol Bordello, I felt like as a viewer I was going to be stymied, and indeed I was. I get that each of the three main flatmates have their own sets of issues and obstacles, and that all of their peripheral associates in turn react to that.

Ostensibly, it's a bit of naughtiness added to everyone's lives that improve their respective situation, except for the severe girl from This is England, who has a deus ex machina Indian boss who makes her noble dreams come true, subbing for the rich, sexually abusive father she's been fleeing from. And ballet girl who makes a great stripper when she's sad and drunk and the DJ plays a Britney Spears record.

And on that front, what's the deal? Are you and Britney still friends, or are you still enemies, or what? It's hard to keep things straightened out on that front, and because I don't even know how you feel about Britney these days, it's impossible to understand what the subtext of the scene is supposed to be.

And that's the big problem with your movie- I don't know what it's supposed to mean. There's an endless series of platitudes and cliches about dualities and the universality of humanness, but it's sort of empty. There's no fun here (and that's okay, because I haven't expected you to be any fun since Truth or Dare; it's okay, things got serious soon after, and that's where you are, I get it), and by the end of it I realized that I was only still watching the film because I wanted to be able to talk about seeing a film that you made.

I wanted something raw and unfiltered and straight from your id. I mean, you're Madonna. I know you've got some things to say. You've done Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sean Penn, Prince, and Warren Beatty; you've got tales to tell. Give us a roman a clef. Give us something that only Madonna could have made, and not this bland indie foolishness.

But keep making movies, because I like the idea of a woman who knows both sides of a camera who has enough money and ambition to be able to put their own vision up there onscreen. Just don't react to your (unfortunate) husband's (unfortunate) films, and serve up something unique. And please don't think I'm in the business of hating, because "Heartbeat" is one of the best songs you've ever recorded and I'm always willing to take a chance on you.

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