Over the past 25 years, Madonna has inspired many, infuriated more, and ingrained herself in the public consciousness with such force of will that she’s become a favorite subject of academia. Every suggestive lyric, every bright new hairdo, every playful crotch grab is fodder for college courses, daylong seminars, even entire books by scholars looking to make a buck off arguably the most famous woman in the world.
Christopher Ciccone is not one of those scholars. He’s a great tattletale, though. Life With My Sister Madonna arrives at an inauspicious time for the 49-year-old pop star, who’s been batting away rumors of an extramarital affair with New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez. For E! News fanatics and sun worshippers in need of a good beach read, it’s hard to beat.
Ciccone, who worked closely with his older sibling for years, serves some tasty morsels of madness. There are surreally humorous life-in-a-bubble moments throughout: Madonna is stranded in the Moroccan desert on her way to an early-career video shoot; Christopher spends a woozy evening sharing bumps of cocaine with Donatella Versace and Courtney Love after Gianni Versace’s New York City memorial service; Madonna, buzzing on lemon-drop cocktails, is escorted from a post-Grammy party inexplicably covered in candle wax.
Unfortunately, all this dish is counterbalanced by Ciccone’s attempts to psychoanalyze his sister, a ludicrous exercise given that she is already the most overexposed woman of her generation. He hurries through their Michigan childhood — still the least-chronicled portion of her life — in favor of too-obvious statements that will surprise nobody. Among the feeble insights: Madonna ”always has to be the best.” She is ”the world’s worst joke-teller.” She is ”not touchy-feely.” She wholeheartedly believes in her acting abilities. She’s a tightwad who once charged her college-student brother 50 cents for a joint — and decades later made him pay his own way to her 2000 Scotland wedding to Guy Ritchie. And then there’s this doozy: ”From her perspective, she is the only person in the universe.” Well, duh. C+