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Madonna: "Anybody who says my show is 'neat' has to go...."
Lionsgate / 120 Minutes / 1991 / Rated R / Street Date: April 3, 2012
Chronicling her 1990 Blonde Ambition tour, Madonna is revealed as a den mother to her family of dancers, a businesswoman, and a hard-driving singer and dancer to her millions of fans. Arguably at the peak of her career, filmmaker Alek Keshishian keenly captures quirky moments in Madonna’s world that make this documentary an entertaining watch for anyone who is the least bit interested in a high-profile celebrity on the road.
Between her performances, technical difficulties with her complicated show, dealing with her team or her family members, and lots of coyness, Madonna is probably at her most interesting during conflicts. Fuming at her tour’s monitor mixer Keith Carroll (U2: Rattle and Hum) for audio drop outs, bossing her father about getting tickets for her show, venting at her manager Freddy DeMann about sour audience members, encountering threats from Toronto police for her “immoral” show, threatening dancer Oliver Crumes, Jr that she “won’t tolerate” his attitude, and worst of all losing her voice, each keep the woman on her toes.
On the other hand, I’d forgotten how fun Truth or Dare is - this documentary is also a big party! Lots of laughter, smiles, orneriness and jet setting around the world, and meeting other famous folks in between some of her popular songs are all entertaining. You bet she’s got a huge ego, but Madonna’s always-changing choreography is interesting and sexy. She has some alluring dancing moments when the attentive Carlton Wilborn swings her around in “Oh Father,” and Madonna seems to enjoy the crowd the most in her lively “Holiday” number.
Her younger brother, Christopher Ciccone, designed the cool Blonde Ambition stage here, and is her “dresser” with her wardrobe changes. He is noticeable in many scenes. I read his 2008 vengeful book, Life With My Sister Madonna. Yikes. Anyway, his book also observes the Blonde Ambition tour and this Truth or Dare documentary.
Christopher Ciccone admits that Madonna often plays for the camera in Truth or Dare. He also notes that with each world tour, Madonna makes sure at least one of the male dancers is straight, with whom she romances – in Truth or Dare it is dancer Oliver Crumes, Jr.
Additionally, Ciccone was outraged (though he didn’t appear to be in the scenes?) that Madonna chose to weirdly exploit herself visiting their mother’s grave, after which she turned to him all cheery and said, “Ok, you’re turn!” He angrily declined. Ciccone’s well-written yet somewhat snobby book certainly leaves one feeling conflicted between the thrill of fame, loyalty and love vs. sycophants and abusive control. But like it or not, his book shines a little more truth on Truth or Dare.
As the lone executive producer herself, I do admire Madonna for allowing herself to be filmed in some unflattering circumstances – that’s not easy for a woman in show business. And much credit should be given to director Alek Keshishian (With Honors) for composing on-the-fly moments in interesting ways and from different angles. Sound supervisor Lon Bender (The Hunger Games) keeps the layers of different audio well mixed. And Barry Alexander Brown’s (Inside Man) clever editing crafts some thoughtfully progressive segues.
Despite being the most successful documentary at the time, some consider Truth or Dare’s two-hour runtime to be too long. So, non-Madonna fans might keep that in mind. Among the fun times, nothing reaches profound levels akin to other documentaries – in fact, the nature of Truth or Dare doesn’t often rise above an adolescent attitude. …but maybe that’s all just part of rock and roll.