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Madonna: Innocence Lost (1994) 

Rarely does a biopic’s opening disclaimer set the viewer up so perfectly for the disappointment that follows. “Some of the songs and performances were specially created for this movie” it states, followed by “Madonna has neither participated in nor endorsed this presentation”. So instead of Madonna’s early catalogue of songs, which included ‘Burning Up', we are treated to nondescript pastiches of 80’s pop. Only ‘Like a Virgin’ get an airing, and that’s sluggishly performed by the lead just before the end credits.


Which is at odds with Terumi Matthews’ portrayal of Madonna up till this point. Despite the film’s pedestrian soundtrack, script and direction, Matthews almost single-handedly sparks it into life.  Using the standard biopic trope of a singer reflecting on their life before taking the stage, Madonna: Innocence Lost opens at the 1984 MTV Music Video Music Awards. Flashback six years earlier where an omnipresent narration and further flashbacks clumsily establish Madonna as a rebel. Leaving home to seek fame and fortune in the Big Apple, she survives her lack of finances and (according to at least one acquaintance) talent to manoeuvre her way into a recording contract.

“I take what I need and then move on” Madonna yells at the latest casualty on her ladder to success. Before this she has slept with a photographer for a meal and a pay rise, back-stabbed a lead singer so she can take her place and slept with a drummer so he would get fired. A touch of pop-psychology attributing such behaviour to her mother’s early death is accompanied by another black-and-white flashback, this one apparently filmed with a Vaseline-smeared lens and a malfunctioning gimbal. Shortly thereafter Madonna is at 1984 MTV awards, wondering why she is alone and whether her mother would be proud. Cue 'Like a Virgin'.

End credits state that since this performance, Madonna has gone on to become one of the most successful recording artists in history. No such fame awaited Terumi Matthews. After a few more acting gigs, including an uncredited appearance as Madonna in a Dennis Rodman biopic, she found a different pathway to success in the Big Apple – selling real estate.

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The character of Mitch Roth is based on DJ and record producer Mark Kamins. Also, brothers Paul and Stu are based on Dan and Ed Gilroy (of the band Breakfast Club).

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No mention is made of Madonna’s appearance in the independent feature A Certain Sacrifice, which was filmed circa 1979, but released in 1985. The rest of Madonna’s film career occurred after this biopic’s setting. 

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