When Madonna unveiled her second directorial effort “W.E.” at the Venice Film Festival in 2011, the critics (this one included) were pretty merciless. That glossy mashup of Wallis Simpson biopic and contemporary Harlequin romance was, admittedly, a pretty easy target — The Weinstein Company's advance hype didn't fool anybody — but the sheer vapid ineptitude of its storytelling still managed to surprise. Andrea Riseborough received some good notices for work as Simpson, Arianna Phillips' super-glam costumes were Oscar-nominated and Madge's own theme song even scooped a Golden Globe, but after this and her little-seen debut “Filth and Wisdom,” no one seemed to be begging the pop queen to return to the director's chair.
But hey, Madonna has never in her entire career been cowed by criticism, and she's not about to start now. It was announced earlier today that she is to direct her third feature “Adé” — an adaptation of Rebecca Walker's 2013 novel “Adé: A Love Story.”
The novel is the first fictional effort by Walker: the daughter of “The Color Purple” author Alice, she's best known for her memoirs and journalism on matters of racial and gender politics. “Adé,” which is reportedly rooted in Walker's personal experience, tells the story of a young biracial college student whose plans for a simple, idyllic life in Kenya with her Swahili lover are disrupted by malaria and civil war.
It's material that evidently appeals to the florid, unabashedly romantic side of Madonna's sensibility that — for better or worse — was also responsible for “W.E.,” albeit in a very different milieu. African civil war is a long way from the pampered personal dramas of British royals and New York socialites; perhaps a bit of distance from the subject matter will do her good.
A screenwriter has yet to be confirmed, so this is still quite a long way from happening, but the project does boast a credible producer in Bruce Cohen, who won the 1999 Best Picture Oscar for “American Beauty,” and has since been nominated for “Milk” and “Silver Linings Playbook.” (He also produced “The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas,” but nobody's perfect.) He also co-produced the Academy Awards ceremony a couple of years ago, so if Madonna's still dreaming of her first Oscar nod, she's chosen an auspicious collaborator.
Do you think Madonna can turn it around? Perhaps you think she got a raw deal last time round? Tell us in the comments.