What do you do when you’ve had a fairly unique film career and been one of the biggest pop stars of your generation? You direct a crappy movie about a historical figure from the perspective of a lonely New York socialite, that’s what, and try to make it a “prestige” picture. That’s what W.E. is at its heart: a vanity project from a person that has an entire film career devoted to vane projects.
W.E. follows the tale of Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish), a lonely New Yorker who decides to find a passion project of her own: the tale of Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough), the woman who convinced King Edward VIII (James D’Arcy) to abdicate the English throne. Last year’s Best Picture Oscar winner, The King’s Speech, focused on Edward’s brother, George (Colin Firth), as he took over from his brother (Guy Pearce) after he abdicated the throne. This film focuses on Edward and Wallis and what Wally thinks of as the ultimate love story between the two, and discovers there’s more to it than she originally thought.
The problem with the film is that it doesn’t shed all that much light into the life and love of Wallis Simpson. The film is much more of a seeming tribute to Simpson and tries to paint her as being misunderstood, et al, as opposed to trying to give her a fair depiction. Wally is attempting to find out the truth, et al, about her but the film always magically seems to discover that what’s been presumed about her (like her Nazi sympathies) is somehow false. Somehow in the end not everything was puppies and rainbows in regards to her love affair with Edward, either, and somehow she’s the victim in all of this.
It doesn’t help that Madonna doesn’t really know how to direct a film. This is sloppy film-making, at best, as her feature film debut doesn’t show that she learned anything about the craft despite starring in a plethora of films as well as having been married for some time to British director Guy Ritchie. It’s sloppy story-telling as Madonna doesn’t have a good editor to reign in her own bad tendencies; this is something put out without having the story being found in editing, like some films have been, and instead is a pure director’s vision. And that vision sucks.
Madonna may have produced plenty of hit music singles and albums but that success doesn’t translate into film.
There’s a fairly generic Making Of piece featuring the Material Girl.
If you’re looking for a nuanced look at Wallis Simpson’s life, and her grand love affair, this isn’t the film for you. But then again it’s not really a film for anyone to view.
Anchor Bay presents W.E. Directed by Madonna. Starring Abbie Cornish, Andrea Riseborough, James D’Arcy. Written by Madonna and Alek Keshishian. Running time: 119 minutes. Rated R. Released on Blu-Ray May 1, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.