W.E. (tbc)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner23/01/2012

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 117 mins

W.E. is well acted and tells the story from a female-centric viewpoint that's as commendable as it is unusual, but the modern-day strand is largely superfluous, the dialogue is disappointingly flat and there are a number of misguided directorial decisions as well as some unintentionally laughable moments.

What's it all about?

Directed and co-written by Madonna, W.E. stars Abbie Cornish as Wally, an unhappily married modern-day Manhattan socialite who becomes obsessed with the story of Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough), whose possessions are being auctioned at Sotheby's. Wally's fingering of the various opulent objects on display triggers a series of flashbacks to twice-married Wallis' scandalous love affair with Edward, Prince of Wales (James D'Arcy), which eventually lead to his abdication after he refused to give her up. At the same time, Wally embarks on her own love affair with Evgeni (Oscar Isaac), a poetry-reading Russian security guard she meets at the auction house.

The Good
Andrea Riseborough is excellent as Wallis and there's genuine chemistry between her and D'Arcy's Edward, particularly in their earlier courtship scenes. Cornish does her best as Wally, but her under-developed character is largely there to reflect and echo Wallis' story (and, arguably, stand in for Madonna herself, who shares Wally's obsession with Wallis), while super-sensitive Evgeni seems more like a fantasy than a fully-fledged character. Consequently, the modern-day scenes seem largely superfluous and don't really work in their own right.

The Bad
It also doesn't help that the dialogue is often painfully flat, while there are some questionable directorial decisions (such as having an old-age prosthetic make-up plastered Wallis dance the Twist for an ailing Edward) that backfire badly and result in scenes that are unintentionally laughable. That said, Madonna also makes some brave decisions that almost work, such as the critically maligned moment where a 1930s dance sequence is soundtracked by the Sex Pistols' Pretty Vacant; indeed, if that kind of thing hadn't been limited to the occasional scene, the film might have been a lot more fun.

The other problem with the modern-day strand is that it ends up making the film a good 20 minutes too long, while the less said about Madonna's presentation of Mohammed Al-Fayed (Haluk Bilginer), the better (she might has well have given him angel-style backlighting and a celestial choir).

Worth seeing?
While not quite the disaster it's been painted as elsewhere, the messy script ensures that W.E. never quite delivers on an emotional level, despite strong performances from Riseborough and D'Arcy.

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Content updated: 17/09/2019 03:08

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