Madonna has been a superstar in the music world, and she will definitely remain so in the history books. She has also been involved in movies, and her career in Hollywood has not been as successful as she probably wished. So it was a surprise that she got green-lighted to direct W.E.," a period film, with a moderate budget - big risk, I would say. But the movie, I believe, works. It is an honest, passionate and elegant look at one of the most controversial romances of all time.
The film's main story is about the love affair between King Edward VIII (James D'Arcy) and Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough). However, instead of telling the story as is, Madonna chose to include a parallel, contemporary story involving Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish) and William Winthrop (Richard Coyle). The film opens with Wallis Simpson waiting for her first husband, Winfield Spencer, to have dinner together. He shows up late and is unhappy that his dinner is not served. He beats Wallis, who is pregnant, causing a miscarriage. We then move to 1998, and meet Wally Winthrop, who is also waiting for her husband, to have dinner together, something that also doesn't happen. In this case, her husband was having fun with other ladies. In her lonesomeness, Wally (who was named after Wallis Simpson), visits an exhibition featuring King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson's memorabilia, which would later be sold in an auction. While viewing the objects, she daydreams about their famous romance, in which King Edward VIII surrendered his crown to marry Wallis, a twice-divorced American woman. It was a scandal at the time, which caused the couple to live in exile. The rest of the movie deals with Wally's problems with her husband, intertwined with aspects of the royal controversy.
"W.E." is quite stylish and with a great, eclectic soundtrack. I found the comparisons of both couple's problems very interesting. And this is understandable, as Madonna Louise Ciccone has been known to be vocal on women's rights. This film, in addition of being about the King Edward VIII-Simpson sacrilegious romance, is also about courageous women and true love. I would venture to say that this film should be viewed together with "The King's Speech," also a Weinstein production/Anchor Bay release, because it deals with the Duke of York, the brother that succeeded and inherited King Edward VIII's throne. The Blu-ray + DVD +Digital Copy edition of the film includes a making-of documentary (UK, 2011, color, 119 mins plus additional materials).
Reviewed on April 30, 2012 by Eric Gonzalez for The Weinstein Company / Anchor Bay Entertainment.