Top critical review
Madonna Has Nothing on Patti LuPone
on 13 July 2017
Madonna is a music superstar, but her film career over the last 30 years leaves a lot to be desired. While she was the leader of the pack in the pop world, at least for female pop singers, her film career is the prime example of how a hugely successful music career doesn't necessarily translate into a hugely successful film career. She is someone other singers look at as an example of what not to do when looking for a respected film career in Hollywood and beyond. Even her directorial efforts - Filth and Wisdom and W.E. - were critical disasters. She isn't Bette Midler, Cher, and Barbra Streisand, three legendary singers who secured critically acclaimed acting careers. They have either won an Oscar (or two in Barbra Streisand's case) or have scored multiple nominations over the years. Even Whitney Houston had more critical and commercial success at the box office than Madonna with the few films she made in the 1990s. The Bodyguard, the second highest grossing film worldwide of 1992, was a hit because of the presence of both Whitney and Kevin Costner. Whitney's follow-up film, Waiting to Exhale, outperformed Evita at the US box office.
Taking a look at Madonna's Rotten Tomatoes profile, it's no surprise to see that the majority of her films are considered just that, rotten. Shanghai Surprise, the 1986 film she made with her then-husband Sean Penn, currently holds a 14% rating, Who's That Girl?, released in 1987, currently holds a 23% rating, while 1992's Body of Evidence, a blatant attempt at riding the Basic Instinct wave, currently holds a 6% rating. Also released in 1992 was Shadows and Fog, one of Woody Allen's lowest rated and forgotten films. The commercial flops Dangerous Game and Four Rooms followed in 1993 and 1996 before The Next Best Thing in 2000 and the much-derided 2002 remake Swept Away, a film that nearly ruined Guy Richie's career after the highly acclaimed Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. I bet Guy still shakes his head in embarrassment at having Swept Away on his resume. Madonna has a few winners in amongst the many, many misses. Desperately Seeking Susan is the highest rated film in her filmography, but she more or less plays herself, she's also not the lead, Rosanna Arquette is. Even though Madonna was a superstar in the early 1990s, she was hardly the biggest draw for film fans that flocked to see A League of Their Own in 1992. Geena Davis and Tom Hanks were arguably two of the biggest film stars in Hollywood at that point and the biggest pull for audiences who pushed A League of their Own over the $100 million dollar mark at the US box office. Dick Tracy, released in 1990, had the power of Warren Beatty behind it.
That brings me to Evita. Film critics and Madonna fans often regard Evita as the best film Madonna has made, although, as already noted, people aren't exactly spoilt for choice. The film actually holds a 62% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, indicating mixed reviews. It certainly isn't the classic, critically acclaimed film Madonna fans like to think it is. Madonna won the Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical at the 1997 Golden Globe awards, something you're probably well aware of unless you've somehow missed the continuous cries of Madonna fans around the world whenever her film career is ridiculed and mocked. Her fans hold on to her Golden Globe win for Evita with all of their might, but it doesn't change the fact that her singing and performance in the film are nothing compared to Patti LuPone and Elaine Paige in the stage versions. After all, Madonna didn't go on to score an Oscar nomination after her Golden Globe win, probably because the Academy voters would rather see hell freeze over than to nominate her for an acting award.
Now to my next point. Why didn't any of Madonna's Golden Globe nominated songs score Oscar nominations? Masterpiece and Beautiful Stranger weren't eligible for Best Song Oscar nominations (the songs must play over the end credits), but she also failed to score a single Oscar nomination for the songs that were eligible to receive nominations (Who's That Girl, I'll Remember, This Used to Be My Playground and Die Another Day). It's not that Madonna doesn't care. She said in an interview that Oscar recognition would be nice, so why didn't she place Masterpiece at the beginning of the W.E. credits so she would have had a chance at a nomination? She did direct the film. You Must Love Me won an Oscar in 1997, but the Oscar went to Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, the writers of the song. It's just strange that Madonna has never had a single nomination, yet Elton John, Adele, Sam Smith, Janet Jackson, Dolly Parton, Melissa Etheridge, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Phil Collins, Lady Gaga (lol) and Carly Simon have all won and/or scored nominations.
A lot of Madonna fans have a sense of entitlement when it comes to her career. They think she's owed a bigger movie career just because she's such a big music star when in reality it doesn't work like that. Maybe she would have had more critical and commercial success at the box office had she A) took more acting lessons and B) chose better film projects. She seems to have put acting on hold for years now. Maybe she's finally realised what a joke the film industry considers her to be or maybe she's just too busy polishing the nine Razzie Awards she's won over the years, the most for any actress. Patti LuPone was right when she criticised Madonna's acting ability a few weeks ago. It's one thing for Madonna to spend 30 years dressing up as every old school Hollywood actress under the sun but it's another to have their on-screen talent and charisma. Considering the magnetism she has in music videos and on stage, her big screen presence leaves a lot to be desired.