Madonna: Truth or Dare Reviews
Watching it back after all these years, this film feels like a much-needed respite from the polished and utterly benign stuff you'd find in that One Direction or Katy Perry movie, and instead attempts to tell a fascinating - if not always sincere - story. It's refreshingly honest when it needs to be, and though it has its fair share of pretension (could you expect anything less from Madonna?) and clearly manufactured moments, it's a bold and thoroughly entertaining ride.
By the end, we still have no idea who Madonna really is, but the film never claims to tell us (as someone says in the film, "Madonna is hard to reach"), nor is it really that important. What we have instead is an entertaining, and sometimes shocking, glimpse into a world few will ever experience first hand. In true Madonna fashion, it's crazy, fearless and just plain raunchy fun.
I suppose I was expecting a sort of "Vogue" tinged romanticism, painting Madonna as a pop figure still untouchable, like how "Ready to Wear" made the fashion world funny, nowhere near realistic, but was all the better for it. For all the cultural bullshit that misunderstands her, "Truth or Dare" dares you to hate and love the pop superstar at the same time, wanting you to scoff at her need to be the STAR of every moment, wanting you to appreciate her relentless work ethic, her need to be an entertainer at the top of their game. And like all good documentaries (and why this one is so damn good), the film is riveting for everyone, outsiders and insiders alike. I wasn't a Madonna fan before the documentary nor will I be afterward, but as a rock documentary, "Truth or Dare" stands as one of the finest.
Recording the entirety of her 1990 Blond Ambition tour, the film is essentially an inside-look into what a day, a night, a week, a month, a year, looks like for Madonna. (Or maybe it just seems that way: a master of camera manipulation, she may just as well be putting on a show.) Photographed in grainy black-and-white, save for the colored (and obligatory) stage performances, "Truth or Dare" is more warty than glamorized, emphasizing her vulnerabilities, need to be the center of attention, and her wicked sense of humor (she seems to laugh more when people are having a hard time than when everyone is having a ball).
I couldn't care less about the complicated choreographic sets that circle around renditions of "Like a Virgin", "Express Yourself", "Holiday", among others; what makes "Truth or Dare" engaging is its frank candidness. Behind the scenes, Madonna notices that the majority of her young dancers are insecure and need mothering; strange, she remarks, how she likes to be a matriarch, to give her stage family someone to confide in. We catch glimpses of her short relationship with "Dick Tracy" co-star Warren Beatty, who scoffs at the fact that real-life doesn't seem to matter to her unless it is captured on camera. Cameos abound, featuring pop-ups from Pedro Almodóvar, Kevin Costner, Antonio Banderas, and Al Pacino. But there are three truly great scenes in the film, where Madonna doesn't seem to be putting on a show, where she doesn't seem to be trying to make herself look a certain way for the cameras.
Best is her reaction to Kevin Costner, who comes backstage for one show and describes the production as neat; disgusted, she gags, remarking "Anybody who says my show is 'neat' has to go." Later, an old friend (pre-fame old) meets Madonna in the hallway of her hotel, asking her to be the godmother to her soon-to-be born child. Though it is clear that the women were close back in the day, Madonna blows her off; she doesn't want to be a mother any time soon, and she doesn't have time to waste time with non-celebrities from the past. And in one of the closing scenes, she infamously models what a blow job from Madonna would look like on a glass bottle. Minutes later, she describes her true love as Sean Penn, heartbroken, regretful.
Fakery of course comes around - the scene where she visits her mother's grave doesn't feel all too sincere, rather the documentarian's hope to make appear feel bare-bones hopeless - but "Truth or Dare", ultimately, is a winning documentary that makes the once chart-dominating pop-star more fascinating, and timeless, than ever.
Filmed mostly in black and white (except colorized for the musical segments), Madonna's die hard fans should be overjoyed to get to know the person she is while not recording or performing. Considering how far she has taken her career, many surely are curious as to how she has done it all. Many viewers may see most of her lusty and somewhat obnoxious behavior as off-putting; though she does occasionally go deep with her discussions and dialogues, showcasing her alter ego. Whether someone would want to learn this or not may depend upon their tolerance for Madonna's excessive obscenity and fascination with the male sex organ.
The film certainly covers a lot as her tour covers 27 cities worldwide and sold out nearly every show. Not all of it seems necessary and makes the last half of the film longer than necessary (especially a never-ending gay pride scene), but the concept still remains fascinating and gives us a chance to know Madonna as more than strictly an entertainer. One may want to pay particular attention to footage of Oliver Crumes Jr., Kevin Alexander Stea and Gabriel Trupin (three of Madonna's male dancers) as they later filed a lawsuit for invasion of privacy, fraud and deceit and intentional misrepresentation. Released theatrically as Truth or Dare but changed to Madonna: Truth or Dare for video release.