Before you ask, no, this movie is not about the Bermuda Triangle. It’s about a bunch of really, really rich people aboard a luxury yacht that find themselves stranded on a deserted island. Sorry, there’s no Maryann, Ginger, or Professor in this film.
Writer/director Ruben Ostlund (Force Majeure) is known for his quirky, upsetting, and black comedies and this one is no different. Set in three chapters, this movie is seen through the eyes of Carl (Harris Dickinson), an insecure runway fashion model. In the first chapter, we get to know him and his girlfriend, Yaya (Charlbi Dean), another fashion model & YouTube influencer. These two bicker & argue quite a bit, which sets up the second story, aboard a luxury yacht where they try and have fun, despite Carl having reservations.
On this ship of fools we meet several key players: Jarmo, a milquetoast software genius (Henrik Dorsin), stern ship’s purser Paula (Vicki Berlin), stroke victim Therese, (Iris Berben), Russian billionaire manure magnate Dimitry (Zlatko Buric), ship mechanic Nelson (Jean-Christophe Folly), and toilet cleaner Abigail (Dolly DeLeon). Also onboard is Thomas Smith (Woody Harrelson), the constantly inebriated ship’s captain. All seems well until the big waves hit and, after a night of mass vomiting (Mr. Creosote, move over!), the ship is attacked and then blown up by raiding pirates! Well, so much for a relaxing vacation.
Marooned on a deserted island, only a handful of passengers make it out alive. Carl, Yaya, Dimitry, Therese, Paula, Jarmo, Nelson, and Abigail. But since lowly Abigail is the only one with survival skills (fishing, making a fire, etc), she instantly makes herself captain, forcing others to do her bidding. This evens means having Carl be her personal boy-toy for the duration of their stay. But how long will that be, since the ending delivers a left-field curve ball at ya with a totally ambiguous finale that leaves you throwing your hands in the air and crying foul! I literally did that in the theater along with many others. I’m not making that up! I hate endings like that!
Ostlund loves to break down social structures and point fingers at the upper 1% by holding a mirror up to their stupidity and boorishness. The second chapter is by far the best with the super-rich passengers being waited on like royalty and them barely acknowledging the hired help. One ditzy aristocrat even insists they “clean the sails” on the yacht! Harrelson, in his brief role here, is hilarious and looks like he’s not even trying (but in a good way!). Dickinson, looking like a younger Paul Bettany, is excellent as a barrel of nerves, contradictions, and inferiorities, while Dean is his anchor, but should have been written more clearer.
My favorite was DeLeon, the scheming little nobody, who turns the tables on both the upper-crusts patrons and her pushy boss. Another great performance is Berben as the unfortunate stroke victim. She can only speak a single German sentence, “In Den Wolken,” but coveys so much with those three words. This is a very long (about 2 1/2 hrs) movie that can be surreal and bizarre at times, not to mention extremely gross and graphic (I hope you don’t like seeing others puking!). Ostlund also loves to throw in little tidbits (bees buzzing, wild donkeys) that are supposed to add flavor to the movie, but it just ends up being annoying. Fast Fact: that beautiful yacht you see? That’s the Christina O, formerly owned by Jackie Kennedy.
**Now showing in selected theaters.
Swept Away (2002)
This is a remake of the 1974 Italian film, Swept Away. . .by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August. Yeah, that’s some title, huh? A vanity project from director Guy Ritchie and his then-wife, superstar singer, Madonna, this movie not only crashed & burned at the box office, but swept the 2002 Golden Raspberry Awards! Well, at least that was something.
Ah, the super-wealthy! Extravagance be thy name! And apparently, so is having any trace of kindness or a soul, anyway, that’s the way it is for Amber Leighton (Madonna). She, her complacent husband, Tony (Bruce Greenwood), and a few choice friends have decided to take a private cruise from Greece to Italy aboard a luxury yacht. But! Amber, all bitterness and acid tongue, is making it her personal vendetta to destroy everyone’s happiness. First and foremost, the hired help, and her target is the rugged and handsome fisherman, Giuseppe “Pepe” Esposito (Adriano Gianni). Insisting on calling him “Pee-Pee”, she mocks and berates him every chance she gets, never letting up. Everyone else ignores her constant tirades (they must be used to it), including her hubby who, for the life of me, I can’t explain why he never divorced her.
During a brief outing, Pepe and Amber strike out on their own in a small dingy and, badda-boom, they get stranded in the ocean. After Amber sinks their inflatable in a fit of rage, they luckily find a deserted island where Pepe sees an opportunity for sweet, sweet revenge. Being an experienced fisherman, Pepe is well at home on this island, but Amber is pitching a fit, demanding to be waited on hand & foot. Pepe, seizing the moment, takes matters into his own hands (literally) and starts to slap Amber around, forcing her into being his personal slave for food & shelter. He also demands she calls him “Master” from now on!
After a month of this, Amber has learned to kowtow and do what Pepe says, until he gets fed up and almost rapes her out of sexual frustration. This, believe it or not, is the turning point, and she inexplicably leans into it, becoming closer to him! Soon, she bonds with Pepe and falls in love with her captor, even as a rescue yacht has come for them. Pepe, too, decides he can’t live without her, even after Amber is safely back with her husband, Tony. Pepe still wants her back and makes her choose: me or her hubby. However, Tony secretly finds out about Pepe and his attempt to steal his wife back and decides to put a stop to that.
Written & directed by Ritchie (Snatched, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Guns), this is the movie he wishes he hadn’t made. The characters are all either cartoonish or idiots and the story is just messed up. The 1974 original was much worse, so why did Ritchie even remake this? Madonna’s Amber is such a reprehensible spoiled chain-smoking brat that you have zero compassion for her and she plays it with all the enthusiasm of a bored child. Co-stars Jeanne Tripplehorn and Elizabeth Banks have very few scenes with Amber as her friends, which is bewildering as to why would anyone be this woman’s friend?
Gianni is very good, as he is the son of legendary Italian film actor Giancarlo Gianni, who played Pepe in the 1974 film. At least he’s not phoning in his role. And there’s a very odd scene in this movie: Pepe daydreams of Amber singing & dancing to a lavish production number of “Come On A My House” sung by Della Reese. It’s a cool little scene with Madonna getting to cut loose and just be Madonna. . . BUT. . . instead of Madonna singing, she’s lip-syncing the song! What?! Huh?! You have an iconic popstar in your movie and you have her lip-sync?! What are you, nuts?