CAST: Abbie Cornish, Andrea Riseborough and James D'Arcy
CLASSIFICATION: 16 LVD
RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes
Two women. Two eras. Two hours of insight into the life and loves of Wallis Simpson (Riseborough) and Wally Winthrop (Cornish), a woman who admires her.
Separated by six decades, one of the ladies was most well known for being the woman King Edward VIII abdicated the throne for. No one knows the other woman even exists, or at least her incredibly successful but abusive husband would have her believe she is invisible. We see the story unfold through the eyes of Wally, who lives in New York City.
Having given up a job she loved to tend to her home when she married a doctor, Wally becomes obsessed with Wallis, who helped Edward defy his family by marrying an American divorcee. Edward – who is the E in W.E. – was Wallis's third husband. Wally starts out believing W.E. were the perfect personification of true and everlasting love. So the stay-at-home wife begins attending an auction of the Windsor Estate that tells the tale of "the greatest royal love story" and it's when she connects with Wallis's life that she really starts to connect the dots in her own marriage.
The enigmatic Duchess of Windsor even appears to Wally and tells her side of the story – one that wasn't really given a platform to be heard since she was seen as not just a home wrecker but the royal home wrecker – in a compelling and cute way. The two women's lives are shown in scenes that criss-cross each other and sometimes, as in when Wallis appears to Wally in her boudoir, their lives intersect. Sometimes the cuts from one era to the next aren't as seamless as they should be, but that's not the greatest distraction from what's on the big screen.
One of the distractions is how the romance shared by Wallis and Edward may be lathered on to celluloid to the point of seeming unreal and that the story may tend to feel like it's stalling at way too many points, but one thing W.E. often is, is beautiful on screen. The textures are mostly rich in colour, and vibrant. From the twirl of the hem of a 1930s dress (some of the costumes were designed by the likes of the Christian Dior and Balenciaga fashion houses) to how a curtain may fall gracefully, there is a certain panache and elegance in the cinematography.
The casting was on point as Riseborough draws the audience to hear her out as a socialite and a newsmaker who changed the course of history. She was, in a word, charming. And now for the part you've all been waiting for.
Yes, this film is directed by Madonna. That Madonna. As in cone-bra-wearing, vogue-ing, man-arms-having, Malawian-baby-adopting Madonna. Perhaps she is the reason why critics all over the world have deemed W.E. a bad film. How dare a pop star try to direct a serious film?! Or maybe international press aren't taken with Wallis's story because history has painted her as pretty much evil.
Some reviews haven't been favourable but if you love vintage fashion, British history and a good love story then you should definitely check W.E. out.
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