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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

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W.E.
Material Girl


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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

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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


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