Plot: The affair between King Edward VIII and American divorcée Wallis Simpson, and a contemporary romance between a married woman and a Russian security guard.
Writers: Madonna (screenplay), Alek Keshishian (screenplay)
Stars: Abbie Cornish, James D'Arcy and Andrea Riseborough
W.E. is not a good film. But it is one of this films that have so many fantastic elements in it that you can't really call it bad either. It's not good, it's not bad, but it's definitely not mediocre. It's a film you have to endure in order to see those great parts of it - it's like a trip to the museum where you are wandering around for hours, bored, unimpressed, puzzled, only occasionally seeing a gorgeous piece of art.
I imagine that while Madonna was working on that movie she spent her time reading history books about the affair between King Edward and Wallis Simpson, while listening to Sex Pistols and surrounding herself with the objects from the era. Too bad in her research she actually forgot to read about how to make a movie. W.E. has many things in it but the one thing that is always absent is the focus - the film is scattered and messy and Madonna makes a lot of puzzling choices when it comes both to the plot and the narrative of the picture.
Englishmen are perceived to be cold but they prove to be anything but - especially if you look at their history. They are the people who quite often lose their minds for love - and not even the women, but men and even kings. In XVIth century one girl named Anne Boleyn forever separated England and Vatican with the flatter of her eyelashes and the intensity of her eyes and in 20th century another one caused a man to sacrifice his throne.
Much like Boleyn Wallis didn't posses great beauty or manners. But she had charm, intelligence and the spellbinding energy. She was not just a lover for Edward - she was also his best friend. W.E. doesn't focus that much on the affair but it focuses on her - how flattered she is by prince's attention, how mortified she is when the he is willing to give up the throne for her and how guilty she feels when he does so.
Unfortunately, for some strange reason Madonna introduces parallel story taking place in modern times where we watch dazed and confused Abbie Cornish trying her best to act. Hell, if it wasn't for this misguided abortion of a plot I'd give this movie a solid 8/10. But the story of a young trophy wife fascinated by Wallis and actually going as far as hallucinating her being there and having conversations with her is so stupid and ridiculous I was embarrassed for Cornish. She did her best, but she is not a great actress yet and her best is not going to rescue the scene from being a disaster.
Modern day atrocities aside - the film looks and sounds beautiful. The cinematography is absolutely dazzling - though the editing is a bit too vigorous at times and Madonna really doesn't let her movie linger too much anywhere, even when it really, really should - the film is really a treat to look at. The camera shows us the artistic and delicate shots, quite often ingenious and while at times unflattering for the actresses always having a peculiar and interesting kind of beauty to them. All the details in the frames are meticulously planned and the Academy Award nominated costumes look very authentic and lovely.
The cast is quite impressive - wonderful Riseborough has great chemistry with James D'Arcy who plays Edward and delivers second best performance in the movie. The roles of King George and his wife Queen Elizabeth, played in Academy Award winning performance by Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter respectively in "The King's Speech" here are the work of Laurence Fox and Natalie Dormer, who ironically played Anne Boleyn in "The Tudors" - here unlike there she is a woman determined to rescue the monarchy from the scandal.
W.E. is heavily flawed but it is worth seeing just for its gorgeous visual side and powerful work from Riseborough who I truly hope will get her big break soon - she is really impressive here, despite the movie being so uneven and the script being so messy.