Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Teaser Trailer
The Farewell To Middle-earth Issue
Review Of The Year 2014
Subscribe: Get 12 Issues For £25
Buy the perfect Christmas present this year
Farewell To Middle-earth
Full details of our Peter Jackson-edited issue
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Andrea Riseborough
Abbie Cornish
James D'Arcy
Richard Coyle.
Directors
Madonna.
Screenwriters
Madonna
Alek Keshishian.
Running Time
119 minutes

LATEST FILM REVIEWS
Bringing Tibet Home
3 Star Empire Rating
Great Museum, The
3 Star Empire Rating
Montana
3 Star Empire Rating
Face Of Love, The
3 Star Empire Rating
Electricity
2 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Leviathan
5 Star Empire Rating
Le Jour Se Lève
5 Star Empire Rating
Tony Benn: Will And Testament
5 Star Empire Rating
Nightcrawler
5 Star Empire Rating
Babadook, The
5 Star Empire Rating

W.E.
Material Girl


submit to reddit


Plot
Set In 1998, lonely New York wife Wally Winthrop (Cornish) becomes obsessed with the auction of items belonging to her namesake — American socialite Wallis Simpson (Riseborough), whose scandalous love affair with Edward VIII, then King of England, rocked the world in the late 1930s.


Review
W.E.
A lot has been said about Madonna and her new film — about how bad and inept it is, as if it’s somehow worse than 99 per cent of the other movies released on a weekly basis. That’s right: up there with Showgirls. Let’s give the director a break here. W.E. is flawed, overlong and confused in its storytelling. But then, so was Andrea Arnold’s take on Wuthering Heights, which has seen nothing but raves since it, too, debuted at Venice this year. Where Arnold received the benefit of the doubt, Madonna took a beating. But in both cases there was a director with a story and a vision — and only one of them was taken seriously.

There are three levels on which to approach W. E., and the first involves the performances, by far the film’s best aspect. Andrea Riseborough is terrific as the pushy Simpson, as is James D’Arcy as the simple king who so soppily doffs his crown to her. While Winthrop (Abbie Cornish) mopes through the 1998 auction, flashbacks of Wallis and the soon-to-be King Edward VIII are well served by Madonna’s cast, who give W. E.’s world a plausible humanity. These bright young things are rarefied, but the actors don’t play it that way, which gives the first hour an unexpected energy.

The second level involves the direction. The nearest comparison to this film would be fashion designer Tom Ford’s A Single Man, which also featured billowing curtains and gorgeous homes as a backdrop to a story of compromised desires. But where Ford’s film kept things simple, Madonna’s goes all-out to complicate them. The subplot involving Cornish isn’t just clinically sparse, it’s superfluous and boring — imagine how grating Titanic would be if Cameron kept cutting back to Gloria Stuart’s Rose. On top of that, the film’s eclectic visual grammar never settles, reaching its nadir in a silly, Marie Antoinette-style scene involving Wallis Simpson dancing to the Sex Pistols.

The third level, though, involves the intent. It’s easy to dismiss Madonna as a tourist in the film world. But though it often fails, most glaringly in historical rigour (complicity between the couple and Hitler’s Germany is left shockingly unexplored), W. E. does have interesting things to say. Unusually for a fashion icon, it says something unfashionable, which is that the brash Simpson, far from being the villain of a dark day in British history, was the victim, trapped by the love of a needy husband. In the short term, this will see W. E. dismissed as a vanity project but, in the long term, history may well find it to be a fascinating comment on 20th century celebrity from the ultimate insider.


Verdict
An uneven study of a notorious love story, raised by some superb performances and nuances, but brought down by awkward direction.


Reviewed by Damon Wise

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

Your Reviews

Average user rating for W.E.
Empire Star Rating

RE: Awful to AWESOME

Agree with the review. The film definitely has its flaws it is to quote '...overlong and confused in its storytelling'. However it is not as bad as the critics have made it out to be. Visually it is stunning and Madonna does not shy away from the nastier aspects of Wallis's life. Her early abuse from her first husband. However it is let down by a very thin and light script and a storyline which in the end goes no where. This film is definitely like a Sofia Coppola movie - very m... More

Posted by princessa at 10:09, 23 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Awful to AWESOME

L: C3 So we have two responses to the review of this film and neither are about the film, only Madonna as a person. One a hater and one an obsessed fan. And that sums up the problem with W.E. It may be quite a good little movie, but the fact that madonna is behind it means it will probably never get a fair hearing. I probably won't see it as I have no interest in the subject matter, just as I havne't watched The Kings SPeech either. However, I think madonna should be applauded on what'... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 13:57, 30 January 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Awful to AWESOME

So we have two responses to the review of this film and neither are about the film, only Madonna as a person. One a hater and one an obsessed fan. And that sums up the problem with W.E. It may be quite a good little movie, but the fact that madonna is behind it means it will probably never get a fair hearing. I probably won't see it as I have no interest in the subject matter, just as I havne't watched The Kings SPeech either. However, I think madonna should be applauded on what's a r... More

Posted by C3 at 23:45, 29 January 2012 | Report This Post


Awful to AWESOME

Madonna is brilliant as director of this spell binding film! Madonna is not going away, there are milllions and millions of fans who love her and always will. There is no retirement in site for the biggest selling female artist of all times! A tired old nobody does not get asked to perform at the superbowl. Sorry your hope of this monster going away are futile. Madonna is the Queen of POP!!!!!!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jimmyjam29621 at 04:20, 27 January 2012 | Report This Post


Awful

Awful is the only word I can think of to describe this tripe. Madonna has clearly gone insane and power crazy over the years. There isn't one good point in this whole movie. The movie also reflects badly on the Golden Globes if it won "Best Original Song" for what can only be desctibed as an awful soundtrack. Hopefully after this monster madonna will quietly retire from all media in a corner somewhere. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by J_BUltimatum at 07:13, 24 January 2012 | Report This Post


SUBSCRIPTION OFFERS

SAVE UP TO 69% GET 12 ISSUES FOR ONLY £25
Get the best seat in the house by subscribing to the world's biggest movie magazine today. Save up to 69% and every month you'll get exclusive subscriber-only covers, access to the biggest stars and the best news, reviews and behind-the-scenes reports straight from the set. Click here to find the perfect offer for you


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
Review Of The Year: 40 Worst Posters Of 2014
One-sheets that you'd rather not have on your wall

Hobbit Q&As: Ian McKellen On Finally Saying Goodbye And Farewell To Gandalf The Grey
Read our exclusive Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies interviews

Review Of 2014: Empire's Interviews Of The Year
Crews! Chan! Chickens?! The chats we loved in 2014...

Gallery: Peter Jackson Prop Art: The Bigiatures
An exclusive look inside the director's secret warehouse

Review Of 2014: The Best TV Moments Of The Year
We celebrate the small screen's biggest scenes

A Day In The Life Of An Orc
Three of Mordor's finest describe life in the Dark Lord’s employ

20 Great Films You (Probably) Didn't See In 2014
The underseen joys and unreleased gems of the last 12 months

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Only £25!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 12 issues of Empire for just £25!
Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)