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W.E. - DVD Review

W.E

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

MADONNA’S passion project W.E. is every bit the type of film that you might have expected from the one-time singer of a song called Material Girl.

High on style but short on historical accuracy or narrative common sense the film is a pretty but vacuous look at the story of Edward and Mrs Simpson as seen through the eyes of the latter person.

At its heart, it offers an attempt to offer the alternative perspective to the one more commonly perceived – and encouraged by Stanley Baldwin – of Wallis Simpson… one that shows what she also gave up once Edward had made his historic decision to abdicate the British throne in 1936.

But while certainly offering an intriguing starting point the ensuing film is a bungled mess, combining pop culture direction of the historic scenes with an ill-advised and cumbersome modern day story that adds wholly unnecessary extra padding.

Andrea Riseborough and James D’Arcy portray Wallis and Edward and deliver the kind of performances that deserve a more focused director during the flashbacks to the past.

They are good even when the screenplay is bad, with Riseborough particularly strong at capturing the look and style of Wallis as well as the passion and ultimate sorrow and hidden frustration that emerged as the consequences of her royal romance.

Had Madonna kept the film’s focus on Riseborough and avoided the temptation to embellish or inject the film with stylistic extravagance (setting a song from The Clash to one provocative dance sequence) she may have fared better.

Instead, she adds a wretched modern romance involving Abbii Cornish’s Wallis-obsessed researcher and the Russian security guard (Oscar Isaac) tasked with protecting the royal couple’s auction items into the mix.

The result of this is to blur the focus of the film still further while adding several laughable scenes (including imagined meetings with Wallis herself as well as one with Mohammed el Fayed).

If truth be told, this modern storyline would have worked better had Madonna treated it as an insight into celebrity obsession or mental illness instead of the supposedly empowering journey of self-discovery it becomes.

And such criticisms don’t even begin to take into account the historical inaccuracies that litter proceedings, most of which have been dismissed by the filmmaker herself as artistic licence given the many and varied theories surrounding the truth behind the Simpson story.

When judged against the context of her film as a whole, however, such indulgences merely add to the overall mess that W.E. ultimately becomes.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 119mins
UK Blu-ray and DVD Release: June 4, 2012