October 21, 2008

Random Musing: Madonna on Film

One of the most heckled popular entertainers to grace the silver screen is pop superstar Madonna. Ok, so before you laugh, know this: although she may have had her share of (huge) flops, she does well enough in the right role. You might argue that anyone is capable of achievement in the right film role, which certainly applies to Madonna, but she has made several roles her own. Eva Perón? Mae Mordabito? Breathless Mahoney?

Roger Ebert, an idol of mine, has taken the opportunity to trash Madonna on a number of occasions. I am using his thoughts to provide a basis that represents the general popular consensus of her work.

In his 1990 review of "Dick Tracy," though overwhelmingly acclaiming, he said of Madonna: "Her mistake in 'Dick Tracy,' I think, is that she frankly reaches back to Marilyn Monroe and tries to make Breathless into a Monroe clone, right down to the lighting and costuming in some numbers, which seems inspired by Monroe in 'Some Like It Hot.' It doesn't work. She's not Monroe and she's not Madonna, either."

In his 2000 review of "The Next Best Thing," he again criticizes the pop music icon, saying she "never emerges as a plausible human being in the movie."

On his 2002 comments on the remake of Guy Ritchie's "Swept Away," starring Madonna, he never really mentions anything about Madonna elsewhere in his review besides her character being unbelievable, so I will assume this can be inferred for her acting, too.

However, in his 1996 review of "Evita," he praises, "Madonna, who took voice lessons to extend her range, easily masters the musical material. As importantly, she is convincing as Evita - from the painful early scene where, as an unacknowledged child, she tries to force entry into her father's funeral, to later scenes where the poor rural girl converts herself into a nightclub singer, radio star, desirable mistress, and political leader."

He also lauds Madonna's debut in 1985's "Desperately Seeking Susan" by asserting the film "has its moments, and many of them involve the different kinds of special appeal that [Rosanna] Arquette and Madonna are able to generate. They are very particular individuals, and in a dizzying plot they somehow succeed in creating specific, interesting characters."

While Ebert fortunately missed such films as "Shanghai Surprise" and "Who's That Girl" in his long film-reviewing career, it stands to show that he praises her relatively infrequently compared to his wallops on her acting talent.

I, on the other hand, would like to praise her talent. Although, yes, she has made her share of flops, I think she really shines in those moments that she does shine. While "Susan" is a good example for the beginning of her filmography, I did, contrary to Ebert, enjoy Madonna in "Dick Tracy." Her style was a bit Monroe (who would not use this icon as the example of sexuality?), but I thought she captured her own sensuality and sexuality exceptionally well. She was certainly believable, at least. When she told Tracy (Warren Beatty), "I sweat a lot better in the dark," I was panting just as much!

I remember when I first saw "A League of Their Own" as a child, and I have admired Madonna ever since. She certainly proves herself as Mae Mordabito, as she continues to sustain the sexuality synonymous with her name while generating an admirable human element to her character. She fits among the film's ensemble cast so well and especially forges a hilarious repartée with cast member Rosie O'Donnell as Doris Murphy.

Ultimately, I suppose the problem facing Madonna the actress is that some people might question her ability to separate herself from Madonna the singer. Madonna the singer has a dominant, controversial personality, so some people might fail to recognize her ability to be a conceivable actress. I think her role in "Evita" might dispel all of those critics who continue to question, though. How could this spectacular, unabashed pop music entertainer have played the human, beloved Argentenian icon otherwise?

Therefore, I will contend that Madonna is a good actress, given the right film role. She certainly has the "Globe" to prove it.

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