Grae Drake
W.E. Review

Grae's Rating:


A Borderline movie

Someone had to tell the very interesting and scandalous parallel story to last year's Oscar darling The King's Speech. In that film, Guy Pearce and Eve Best, as King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, just breezed in and out of the story in their yachting clothes leaving behind nothing but champagne bubbles and rolling pairs of eyes. W.E. focuses more on their specific story of love against all odds, but they still can't manage to get their own film. Their story runs alongside a modern-age tale of Wally (Abbie Cornish), who has both an abusive husband (Richard Coyle) and an intriguing suitor (Oscar Isaac). The result left me asking why director and co-writer Madonna felt the need to intertwine the stories instead of just focusing on the delightfully scandalous historical pair, but ultimately, I admire her (blonde) ambition.

Wally is a modern woman who has given up her career and life for love, marrying her fancy doctor husband who now never comes home and is trying to renegotiate their decision to have a family together. She was named after the famous Wallis Simpson, whose belongings are being sold at auction, so every day the purposeless Wally goes there and examines all of the lots for sale. She gets to handle all of the historic items like she was at a Target and not a Sothebys because the hot Russian security guard (Isaac) thinks she is pretty. Every time she stares longingly at a tablecloth, the story shifts to Wallis' life. The general idea is that Edward VIII abdicated the throne, but he wasn't the only one making sacrifices--she gave up a tolerable life where people embraced her and treated her respectfully, isolating her from the world. Wally is completely consumed with Wallis, and how she dealt with a world filled for contempt with her, while she was experiencing the love of a lifetime.

Much like the Amy Adams and Meryl Streep film Julie and Julia, the modern-day tale isn't believable or compelling enough to make you like it as much as the interesting true(ish) story and great performances that make up the historic storyline. However, the movie does a good job distracting you from the fact that Wally just needs to leave her husband and stop whining and daydreaming. The sudden switches to handheld camera, grainier film, unexpected insert shots of beautiful jewelry or ornate tableware, and celebration of small details like the fastener of a garter belt make the whole thing feel like a guilty pleasure.

It's next to impossible to separate a distinct personality like Madonna from a script like this. The combination of the two stories sometimes feels like Madonna's message to the people: "I know that I am a legend just like Wallis, and that my belongings will one day be fondled at Sothebys by a young woman named Madge, who knows all the words to Dress You Up. But I am lonely too. No one will truly know my pain until Madge finds a bunch of letters I wrote to my aunt talking revealing all the really juicy gossip about my life." I figure if anybody deserves to make a quasi self-indulgent Sofia Coppola rip-off, it's Madonna, and she turns it into a fun ride.


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