Madonna is making movies now. Let that news sink in. If it doesn’t fill you with glee, you’ve most likely retired your conical metallic bra. But at least grant the Material Girl this: She directs like a person 30 years younger. Unfortunately, that would equate to a swooningly pretentious 20-year-old film-school student, one who knows just enough about art cinema to fashion her own cliché-embroidered noose.
Scripted by Madonna and Dan Cadan (whose credits include making press kits for Guy Ritchie), Filth and Wisdom feels like the kind of airless, desperately chic movie written by and for young people living on their own for the first time. A trio of ultraskinny caricatures—quirky ex-Soviet rocker A.K. (Hutz, quickly becoming the new Roberto Benigni), ballerina-turned-pole-dancer Holly (Weston) and globally minded klepto Juliette (McClure)—share a London flat, where they swap bored bits of kitchen dialogue over ashtrays. Upstairs lives a sad, gay blind man (Grant), sure to dispense some of the titular wisdom. If not him, there’s always A.K., who speaks directly to the camera: “Filth and wisdom: two sides of the same coin.”
Barring these forays into thimble-deep philosophy—and that’s a pretty big barring—the movie works fine in moments when it approximates a long-form video for Hutz’s exuberant band, Gogol Bordello, which plays live. To be generous, there’s something touching about Madonna’s commitment to tired Eurocinematic tropes; her movie is the furthest thing from corporate. But for a world-famous icon, she’s got a lot of living to do before film two.