Filth and Wisdom is the directorial debut from Madonna, focusing on a ragtag trio of flatmates. AK (Eugene Hutz) is a Ukrainian immigrant who works as a dungeon master to support his punk band. Holly (Holly Weston) is an out of work ballerina who hits the pole to make rent. And Juliette (Vicky McClure) is a pharmacist tech who steals pills while dreaming of flying to Africa to work with orphans.
The film is billed as a rom-com, but I see no rom or com in this film. Visually, Madonna does a great job, but the story is virtually nonexistent. There is no real plot. Each of the characters wants something, and by the end it just kind of falls into their lap. Holly’s story is the closest to being fleshed out. She doesn’t end up as a ballerina, but she finds fulfillment as a stripper thanks to evening tutorials from other strippers in the bar. Juliette’s boss – who is in love with her – enrolls her in the Peace Corps and surprises her with airfare to Africa. AK randomly gets an envelope that, presumably, contains a record contract. He also has a crush on Holly, but not a single second of flirtation goes on between the two. He pines for her silently until the last frames of the film, when she just turns to him and kisses him deeply.
There is just no natural progression of the characters. We are presented with each character’s situation, follow them through a few average days, then suddenly all their dreams come true with no work, no struggle — it's all just handed to them. Biographical tidbits of Madonna come through during the film — she was a ballerina, she does a lot of charity work for African orphans, and like all the characters in the film, she had daddy issues. However, Madonna worked hard to dominate the pop charts, so it seems odd that the characters in her film (she also co-wrote the screenplay) are just handed all their dreams on a silver platter.
It’s a disjointed story that is painfully slow, despite the fact that it clocks in at under 90 minutes. The entirety of the special features consists of a trailer (when will distributors stop trying to convince us that a trailer is a “special feature"?). The acting was fine (although AK’s accent was so thick I could scarcely understand him) and it was visually interesting without trying too hard. I would be interested to see what Madonna could do with a better script.