Madame X

Movie review by
Jennifer Green, Common Sense Media
Madame X Movie Poster Image
Mature themes, language in Madonna concert documentary.
  • NR
  • 2021
  • 116 minutes

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Positive Messages

The concert has a message of political resistance to unwarranted violence, oppression, and military action. Madonna quotes James Baldwin to say "artists are here to disturb the peace." She reminds people, especially women, to not let others mistreat them. She showcases music and cultures from around the world.

Positive Role Models

Madonna says her character Madame X brings light to dark places. She calls herself a "freedom fighter" and speaks out on behalf of the "marginalized" and the "oppressed." She showcases artists from around the world. She talks about and introduces her adopted kids and raises money for a charity.

Diverse Representations

The cast of performers and musicians backing Madonna up on stage (and her invited guests, including her adopted children) are almost entirely people of color, and the concert incorporates musicians from Europe, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East. Some songs are in languages other than English. Madonna has a large gay following, which she recognizes during the concert. There are references in the concert to gay rights, rape, incarceration, Palestine, police violence, gun violence, black trans women, #TimesUp, and more.

Violence

Images, archive footage, and some staged performances show people being beaten, interrogated, or incarcerated, shot, killed at war, carried in a flag-draped coffin. There are climate disasters and gas masks, mention of rape, bombs, images of blood dripping or splattering, hands with stigmata. Madonna appears to crack a person's neck in one number.

Sex

Images from Madonna's career show full-frontal nudity, risqué outfits, sexual positions and poses, people kissing. She sings "I didn't know I couldn't talk about sex… I'm not sorry, it's human nature… Express yourself, don't repress yourself." She touches her private parts and says she's known for masturbating on stage. There's talk of "holes" and things coming out of her "p---y." A female dancer is seen topless.

Language

Multiple variations of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "balls," "tramp," "whore," "damn," "burn in hell," "butt," "p---y," "freak," the middle finger.

Consumerism

The concert film could inspire interest in Madonna's music and albums. She mentions Tinder, Grindr, and Uber.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Madonna smokes a cigarette, as does guest Dave Chappelle. Madonna drinks beer on stage, as does a teenage musician accompanying her. She drinks straight from a bottle in video. A song mentions taking a pill and having a dream. A man in the audience says he runs a drug cartel and she approves.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Madonna still prides herself on challenging the status quo, and in Madame X, she pushes the same boundaries as always. A video montage reviews her career and some of the outrage her work has elicited over the years, both for her risqué performances (including full-frontal nudity) and for speaking out publicly about sexuality. She sings about sex and mentions she's known for masturbating on stage. She touches herself here and refers to masturbation and to her "p---y." A female dancer is seen topless. She weighs in on social issues, including gay rights, rape, incarceration, Palestine, police violence, gun violence, black trans women, #TimesUp, and more. Images and dances suggest violence, including people being killed, beaten, interrogated, and incarcerated. There are people in gas masks and images of climate disasters, bombs, and blood dripping or splattering. Madonna showcases musical styles, genres, and artists from around the world, and her performers are almost all people of color. Some songs are performed in Portuguese and Spanish. She smokes and drinks during the concert. Language includes multiple variations of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "balls," "tramp," "whore," "damn," "burn in hell," "butt," "p---y," "freak," the middle finger.

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What's the story?

MADAME X is a documentary of Madonna's world album tour, which began in Lisbon, Portugal. The performer takes on the character of a secret agent in performance pieces inspired by music from around the world. She's accompanied by the female orchestra Batukadeiras from Cape Verde and other global artists, and she sings in different languages. A theme of social justice runs throughout.

Is it any good?

Madonna continues to revel in pushing boundaries and remaining original, and she promises to live to 200 in her wide-ranging new concert documentary. Madame X is a two-hour smorgasbord of theatrical performances, complex choreography involving nearly 50 performers, flashing mixed media, and elaborate set designs. A 90-second video intro on her career as a provocateur undersells the cosmopolitan and inclusive concert she goes on to give, incorporating a breadth of world musical genres, styles, and artists and a plethora of political messages and imagery. The artist mixes her classics with newer pieces made with artists from around the world. She sings in Portuguese in a makeshift "Fado Club," a nod to the concert location and Madonna's time living in Lisbon. She is accompanied on video by Colombian artist Maluma in a sexy dance number. An all-female orchestra from Cape Verde and another female group accompany her on two of the most memorable pieces, inspired by African and Middle Eastern sounds.

You might want to take the two hours in doses, which is easy to do with a pause between numbers. Donning knee (and, it would appear, butt) pads, Madonna herself seems to need a pause between some numbers. She also does a handstand and dances in high heels. The icon works very hard to still be sexy in her 60s, and prides herself on her continued nonconformity, but she also comes across as quite maternal in this concert, connecting with women of all backgrounds, incorporating her adopted kids into the act, and beaming with pride as she showcases young talents from around the world. It's neat to see her interacting with the audience in a relatively small venue, where she walks onto the floor and takes a seat on a couple of occasions. It would appear, from minor outfit variations, that there's more than one performance edited into this film. But there's only one Madame X, eye patch and all.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it might take for a musician to stay relevant and popular for as many decades as Madonna has, culminating in her latest album and tour, Madame X.

  • Do you find Madonna's collaborations on this tour to be a celebration or in any way an appropriation of world cultures and musical styles? Could you see both sides of that argument?

  • What does the James Baldwin quote about artists, repeated at the start and end of the concert, mean to you?

  • There are a lot of different social causes mentioned in this film, especially during the number "I Rise." Where could you find out more information about these? What is the value of a celebrity like Madonna speaking out about social causes?

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