Film Review: ‘W.E.’ is Decent Directorial Effort From Madonna

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CHICAGO – It’s easy sport to disregard a director when the name attached to that title is Madonna, the famous pop star. “W.E.” is a story about fame in another era, and Madonna’s understanding about fame in general – and its dark underside – actually made her the right choice to handle such a story.

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

The film is not without its flaws, beginning with some unfortunate shorthand in some of the male characters (Madonna also co-wrote the script), but the choice to tell a story in two eras – one a British royal scandal from the 1930s and the other a dissolving marriage in the 1990s – actually works in strengthening both threads. The film even survives the fantasy of the two opposing-era characters talking to one another. Madonna shows empathy and a dash of her own life in rendering the lives of the real Wallis Simpson and the fictional Wally Winthrop.

Wally (Abbie Cornish) is a upper crust New Yorker married to a famous psychiatrist (Richard Coyle). She is named Wally because her mother was obsessed with the British royal scandal of the 1930s, in which King Edward (James D’Arcy) gave up his throne in exchange to marry a twice-divorced American woman, Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough). The story runs on parallel rails – Wally becomes enamored during an auction of the disgraced couple’s effects in New York City, and while she interacts with these baubles, there is a flashback in context to the unfolding royal scandal back in the 1930s.

Wallis Simpson’s history is revealed through her possessions. She survives an abusive first marriage and an indifferent second one, to fall in love with Edward Windsor (the film’s title is their nickname for each other, Wallis/Edward or “WE”). Even as he ascends to the throne their love never wavers, until finally he gives up his country to be with her. Sixty years later, Wally has her own marital issues, including a husband who is prone to disappearing, and even when at home seems resentful. It is a security guard at the auction house named Evgeni (Oscar Isaac), who sees a certain sadness in Wally, and breaks through her wall of secrecy. This is a story of two eras, and their revealing relationships.

“W.E.” continues its limited release in Chicago on February 10th. See local listings for show times and theaters. Featuring Abbie Cornish, Andrea Riseborough, James D’Arcy and Richard Coyle. Screenplay by Madonna and Alex Keshishian. Directed by Madonna. Rated “R”

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “W.E.”

James D’Arcy (Edward Windsor) and Andrea Riseborough (Wallis Simpson) in ‘W.E.’
James D’Arcy (Edward Windsor) and Andrea Riseborough (Wallis Simpson) in ‘W.E.’
Photo credit: The Weinstein Company

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “W.E.”

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