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Movie Review: Swept Away by Stockholm Syndrome

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Arwen TaylorRecently, I had the misfortune of watching the movie Swept Away. This movie is actually a remake of a similarly titled film that was released in 1974. The newest version was released in 2002 and stars Madonna, Adriano Giannini, and Bruce Greenwood.

Madonna plays Amber, the spoiled wife of a rich man (Bruce Greenwood). He decides to take her and a few of their friends on a private cruise that sails from Greece to Italy. The cruise is extremely simple and manned by a very small crew – a captain, two cooks, and two stewards. There are no niceties.

From the get-go Amber is angry because the cruise is below her high standards. It quickly becomes apparent, though, that she is an unhappy woman all around. This may be due to the frustration of getting everything she asked for (material items) but not getting what she really wanted (her husband’s love).

Amber decides to take her displeasure out on one of the stewards named Giuseppe Esposito (Adriano Giannini). At first I empathized with Giuseppe. After working in customer service for 18+ years I know what it feels like to have people take their life’s problems out on you simply because they know you are unable to fight back.

This is one of the biggest problems with the service world. People think that because you are a customer service position, they can treat you any way they please. I’ve had people call me names, speak to me in a patronizing manner, and even threaten to get me fired because I would not worship the ground they walked on.

So I perfectly understand Giuseppe’s frustration with Amber’s spoiled princess routine. He even fantasizes about dumping her plate of food over her head and throwing her overboard. Although he complains bitterly about her, he manages to deal with her insanity.

Swept AwayI want to stop for a moment and note that the film takes a long time to get off the ground. I don’t normally watch romantic comedies. I prefer science-fiction, paranormal, horror, and fantasy films. For better or worse, these types of films have fairly short setups and much of exposition is told during the action.

But even other romantic comedies, like First 50 Dates, don’t take this long to set up. The worst part is we don’t learn anything new about the main characters. Both Amber and Giuseppe pretty much conform to stereotype. She is the spoiled princess who treats everyone like dirt and he is the poor but proud fisherman who hates the way he is treated but grits his teeth and bears it because he needs the work. It takes an hour to tell us (the viewers) something we could have learned in five minutes.

Anyway, the plot takes a predictable turn. Amber wakes up to find her husband and friends have gone to explore some caves. She decides she wants to go too and orders Giuseppe (whom she annoyingly calls Pee-Pee) to take her. Through a series of bad decisions and unfunny events, they blow a hole in the boat and wash ashore on a deserted island.

Amber, unsurprisingly, throws a temper tantrum and the two separate to explore the island. It quickly becomes clear that Amber has never had to fend for herself and that she is woefully unprepared to handle what has happened to her. She spends much of the time wandering around looking for signs of civilization, getting lost, and hurting herself.

Giuseppe, on the other hand, is an Italian Boy Scout. He finds a source of drinkable water, a bottle to collect the water, and a shelter left behind by a previous inhabitant of the island. Since he is a fisherman, he is able to catch food from the surrounding waters and cook it. The shipwreck has shifted the balance of power into his favor.

When Amber meets up with him she tries to bribe him to give her some fish. And that’s when things take a turn for the crazy.

As expected, Giuseppe refuses to be treated poorly anymore. They get into an argument. He turns to walk away from her and she, out of anger, slaps him on the back. Incensed, he retaliates by slapping her in the face.

He yells at her and then slaps her again. The he demands that she do his laundry.

He tells her that if she wants food than she has to earn her keep by basically being his slave. In addition to having her do his laundry and collect water for him, he makes her call him Master. If she doesn’t obey, he slaps, kicks, and insults her. Even though the shelter is big enough for both of them, he makes her sleep outside because she declines have sex with him.

And things only get worse.

In one scene, he demands that she sing and dance for him during which he fantasizes about her in a sexy dress, dancing proactively, and singing “Come On – A My House” by Della Reese. Later, while watching her wash his laundry, he asks her when she’s going to show him her breasts. When she refuses he begins jeering at her and demanding to know why she didn’t want to show him her breasts when just a few weeks before she was sunbathing topless on the boat.

This scene leads into, what I can only describe as, domination porn. He decides he wants sex. She refuses and tries to run away. Although she fights him off a few times, he manages to tackle her in the sand and get most of her clothes off. He then lies on top of her and command she tell him that she wants him to do her. After a few minutes of “No, no, no, no” she finally acquiesces and says she wants to have sex with him.

Wait, what?

He then announces that he refuses to have sex with her. After hurling a few insults and what I guess passes for wise words in this movie, he storms off.  The scene switches to her sitting on a rock in her bra and underwear staring pensively into the air. Afterwards, she goes back to their camp and kisses his feet. No really. She literally kisses his feet and then they have sex.

There are so many things wrong with this movie that I don’t even know where to start. First, I can’t believe that it is classified as a romantic comedy. Seriously? Who are they marketing this film to? Rapists? Psychopaths? Domestic violence aficionados?

Secondly, not only is it incredibly unrealistic, it is extremely offensive to women AND men – particularly Italian men. It plays on the stereotype of the patronizing and sexist Italian male who will make his woman obey him even if he has to beat her to a pulp.

“What have you done to me?” Amber says, a bemused expression on her face.

“What you needed doing to,” Giuseppe responds. He turns his head away in an attempt to return to his nap.

Seriously, that is dialogue from the movie. This comes later when Amber inevitably realizes she is a changed woman. She learns how to fish and catches a small octopus (or a squid, I couldn’t really tell). When she shows it to him, he informs her that it’s his job to catch the fish. It’s her job to cook them. Yeah, we wouldn’t want her to get any ideas about being an independent woman who can fend for herself.

The movie tries to convince you that Amber falls in love with this jerk and wants to be with him forever and ever. I think she just got a bad case of Stockholm Syndrome. Either that, or she is incredibly masochistic. After Giuseppe turned into a psychopath there was nothing sympathetic about him at all. I find absolutely nothing lovable about a person who would use an unfortunate situation to basically enslave someone else.

The only good thing about this movie is the ending. They are eventually rescued and Amber is reunited with her husband. Giuseppe declares his love for her and they plan to run away into the sunset together. However, the husband runs interference and whisks Amber away from Italy in a helicopter with Amber crying over the loss of her abusive island lover.

On a scale of 1 to 10 I give this movie 2 WTFs. Thankfully the public realized what rubbish this movie was because it bombed domestically and internationally.

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