In no lifetime will you hear me say that the costume designing in W.E. was not divine, because it was. That, and the performance of Andrea Riseborough, are the two qualities of this film that endeared it to me, but there were few others. The story could have been intriguing and it could have been a creative, well made film. Madonna, however, followed a rising trend of late by mixing past with present and that was W.E.‘s downfall.
The film is about the highly controversial romance between Wallis Simpson (Riseborough) and the heir to the throne, King Edward VIII (James D’Arcy). He fell in love with Wallis, who was an American woman already married. Wallis Simpson became the most hated woman in Britain and lived with it the rest of her life. Once they were married, Edward was never allowed back in England, except for after he had died and he was buried there. Wallis was allowed to accompany him for only the funeral, after which she returned to France.
On the modern day story side, we follow a woman named Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish) who was named after Wallis and who has an almost disturbing obsession with the afore mentioned romance, and most especially for her name sake. She is married to an abusive Psychiatrist and finds solace filling her days exploring an exhibit of the Windsors’ possessions at Sothelby’s in New York. It is here that she befriends a security guard (Oscar Isaac). He finds her obsession endearing as well as troubling and eventually saves her from a desperate situation.
Except for the fact that Wally is completely obsessed with W.E. and occasionally sees Wallis come to her with advice, their stories have very little to do with one another. Both want children desperately, and neither are able to conceive (while they still hold onto the past, at least). The cinematography is a bit interesting and fresh–reminiscent of Madonna’s music videos. There are a lot of extreme close ups of eyes or interesting bits that go around a tree and then up and away, but they lend very little to the story and are a bit out of place as such. What is the motivation for the shot?
If Madonna had forgotten the present and merely focused on W.E., as I assume she really wanted to focus on Wallis’ side of the story, it could have been quite good. To this day, there continues to be hatred for the woman who almost destroyed a nation. Even after both she and Edward were gone, to see the effect on herself and their relationship depicted in this film was interesting.
Once again I must admit that the costumes were incredible and if I could only watch this film for the bits with Wallis and her impeccable style, I would. Be that as it may, I would not recommend this film.