Madonna? Oh, wait yes, Madonna made this move. That was actually my prevailing thought at the end of W.E. which played this afternoon at the Venice Film Festival, a well acted two-tiered romantic drama that marks her second feature after the notorious 2008 movie Filth and Wisdom. And it’s a credit to the former pop sensation that I was able to forget the major elephant in the room that was the woman behind the camera and enjoy almost every minute of the it. Yes, I say almost as the third act is a painful sequence of events that show she didn’t really know how to finish her story and I wouldn’t be surprised if a re-cutting or even re-shoots are ordered before the film gets a theatrical release in the U.S. this December.
W.E. magically intertwines present and past & reality and fiction as a 90′s New York trophy wife Wallie Winthrop (played by a charming and loving Abbie Cornish), compares herself and her own love story reflected in the unlikely romance that King Edward VIII and American socialite Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) shared when they fell for each other in the mid 20th Century. Wallie is rather obsessed with Wallis, with whom she was named after and shares something of a spiritual relationship with.
As you know from history (or those old enough to remember it!), a few months into his stint as the King of England in 1936, Edward abdicated the throne, turned his back on the British monarchy and caused a constitutional crisis when he proposed to marry an American who had already been married twice (and indeed was still married to her second husband with whom she was in the process of divorcing) and would eventually have to live out the rest of his life in France.
Last year we saw the Oscar winning The King’s Speech that also depicted this historical moment but did so from another perspective. This time Madonna shows us the love and romance of David, King Edward VIII, played by James D’Arcy, showing us what is dubbed as “the 20th-century’s greatest royal love story”.
Both women are going through tumultuous changes in their love life: they need their husband’s love, their protection but cannot have it. Yet they keep forgiving them, allowing the men in their life to wrong them over and over again until the moment they see what true love really is. That’s all it really is about, a search for love, a quest for the right thing to do, the right person to fight for, the courage of being left alone, but knowing you are fighting for something more important than what other people think of you: your own liberty.
The film feels a little long and that is a problem for a movie that runs only for two hours. Other than that it was very interesting to watch. Visually stunning, with great set decorations and costume design that brought back to life the splendor of those years, Madonna seems at ease in both worlds, the past of the old aristocratic England and the present, set in a New York that only serves as a set and doesn’t really take part in the story.
The story is supported by an amazing soundtrack that is an integral part of the film and melts together with the story and allows us a journey filled with emotions while we watch the events unfold. It also keeps you focused during those moments where all you can think of is: ok, we’ve seen this, can we move on to the next scene?
One last thing needs to be said, Madonna’s direction has nothing to envy to other famous directors and if you thought that she was only able to sing, think again. She can definitely do better, but I am quite sure she will.
W.E. will have a U.S. theatrical run beginning December 9th.
This article was first posted on September 1, 2011