"Great Clothing Does Not a Movie Make"
What You Need To Know:
The only strength of W.E. lies in its gorgeous costuming and makeup, and in the lush enchanting soundtrack, which rivals that of the blockbuster TITANIC. W.E.’s Romantic, immoral support for adultery is excessive and unsatisfying. Madonna has a good eye for visual stimulation, but she needs better scripts and better editing. W.E. proves Aristotle’s dictum that great décor, artifice, and music do not a movie make. If you want a better recent period piece, mature viewers could try the PG-13 version of THE KING’S SPEECH or YOUNG VICTORIA.
(RoRoRo, HH, C, B, FeFe, L, VV, SS, N, A, DD, MMM) Very strong Romantic, emotions-driven worldview whereby love is extolled as a frenzied, lust-driven feeling that should be obeyed at all cost, even at the cost of abandoning one’s country and one’s marriage, whether abusive or not, with a strong humanist undercurrent of every human being having the ability on one’s own and without grace to change one’s destiny, mitigated by a few Christian, biblical symbols such as jewelry made in the form of a cross, plus some strong feminist content includes strong female protagonists who attempt to reconcile their identities as women in changing social times; six obscenities, one JC, one OMG and one “God”; strong but not graphic violence portrayed on and off-screen as Wallis Simpson’s first husband beats her severely, resulting in the miscarriage of their baby, and modern-day Wally’s husband beats her in turn, chokes her, and kicks her when she hits the ground, as well as in other scenes when Wally cuts her hands disposing of her fertility drugs; strong sexual content includes strong themes of adultery rather than really explicit sex scenes, but married couple portrayed in bed together with upper male nudity, but sex interrupted, and man lies on top of woman on floor, again portraying upper male nudity but the shot is interrupted prior to intercourse; upper male nudity; multiple scenes portray social drinking at parties and in private; the crown prince of England drugs his guests with Benzadryne without warning that he has put it in their champagne and Wallis does not attempt to stop him or warn them; and, morally bankrupt worldview that celebrates Hollywood-constructed romantic love as the highest good, at the expense of oneself, others, and political duty.
The only strength of W.E. lies in its gorgeous costuming and makeup, and in the lush enchanting soundtrack, which rivals that of the blockbuster TITANIC. And yet, most likely unintentionally, Madonna, who directs the movie, manages to prove Aristotle right: décor, artifice, and music do not a movie make. In fact, in this particular case, the story is weak and the worldview morally (and emotionally) bankrupt.
W.E. could have been a great story about the consequences and difficulties of choosing love over honor – an age-old question posed by medieval storytellers (e.g., TRISTAN AND YSEUT) and other notable playwrights of the golden age, from Shakespeare to Racine. Yet, instead of wrestling with the great question of love or honor, W.E. indulges viewers by pulling at their heartstrings and sympathizing with the dual protagonists’ self-inflicted emotional world.
Regarding the script, W.E. fails by trying to follow two stories instead of one. One storyline focuses on Wally (played by Abbie Cornish), a woman who lives in New York and is married to a rich, prominent psychologist. While Wally wants a baby above all else, her husband neglects her and cheats on her with other women. This causes her eye to wander and pushes her into the arms of a Russian intellectual turned security guard at Sotheby’s. The Russian ultimately rescues her from her violent home life after her husband beats her. Apparently, he can understand her (and her “heart”) better than her husband ever could.
Meanwhile, the second storyline focuses on Wallis Simpson. Wally who becomes enchanted with the life of Wallis Simpson, after whom, we presume, she was named. Wallis Simpson’s story unfolds, from the miscarriage by her first husband, to her second marriage to the soft-spoken but loving Ernest, who backs out of the scene when Prince Edward, the heir to the throne, seeks to engage in an adulterous affair with Wallis. Eventually, of course, Edward abdicates the throne to be with Wallis.
While the movie makes clear that Wallis and Edward remained faithful to each other until the end, the movie suffers from a symptomatic celebration of following one’s feelings at the cost of anything else. It never urges caution or advocates that the so-called “greatest romance of the century” might have been avoided if Wallis had chosen to spend more time with Ernest, the second husband who loved her dearly. At one point in the movie, his character urges the future king to make sure he loves her just as much as Ernest does.
The weak story might have been saved by the stellar performance of Andreas Riseborough as Mrs. Simpson. Alas, it cannot. A weak storyline, poorly constructed script, and shaky and jumpy directing that jumps distractingly from shot to shot without regard for plot or character development, makes W.E. one of the most disappointing – if visually pleasing – movies of the year. The movie’s Romantic, amoral support for adultery is excessive and unsatisfying.