Boredom Beyond Belief
W.E. doesn’t offer anything resembling a story. The film presents a collage of postcards, pasted into an old scrapbook and left for Madonna to find. With a Razzie Award for Worst Actress of the last century, she now tries her hand at directing for the second time. (The first was a little known piece called Filth and Wisdom, made in 2008.) Yet, very early in W.E., it becomes hard to discern whether it’s trying to be a modern day fashion exhibit or period love story. As you might have guessed, it’s a challenge to care about either scenario.
Rather than bore you with the details, it’s simply enough to know that the film deals with the somewhat controversial love affair between Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) and King Edward VIII (James D’Arcy). However slight this premise may be, it would be insignificant without a second story strand, in which Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish) daydreams, in 1998, about the affair previously mentioned. What each narrative in the script by Madonna and Alek Keshishian has to do with the other is anyone’s guess. The connective tissue between the two hardly holds together anyway. That only proves to be half the problem. The other half revolves around the notion that love, however natural or spontaneous it may be, feels forced in the hands of an amateur. Madonna, for all intents and purposes, resembles a lone sailor at sea, stuck without a paddle to work with.
I imagine some women will want to see W.E. for the love story and the actors. Yet Madonna plunges the viewer into two different time-zones without thought of context or proper narrative structure. She juggles willy-nilly between the various decades in a vain attempt at being shrewd. Cleverness gets the better of her as the editing feels capricious, over-managed and leaves you thinking more time was needed to correct the flaws. It’s like watching Russian Ark, only without the nicely decorated rooms.
Nevertheless, Madonna plods along, trying to persuade her audience that this is an important film. W.E. may have neat dress sense, but its place in the pantheon of modern classics seems debatable.
Rather than accompanying the images, Abel Korzeniowski’s score runs on a different track. It’s lovely music, handcrafted with soul and kind on the ear. I just wish the film could rise up to a similar level of excellence.
Of the two lead actresses, Riseborough and Cornish, very little can be said except they appear stiff-mannered and quite sluggish for the most part. Meanwhile, James D’Arcy – so good as Lieutenant Pullings in Master and Commander – waltzes around in a daze here.
In the mainstream, W.E. will probably pass by unnoticed. But if one thing can be said for Madonna, she never met a dress she didn’t like or a weak script.
(Released by The Weinstein Company and rated "R" for some domestic violence, nudity and language.)