November 2, 2012

W./E. Film Review

The story is about the passionate love affair of American-born Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII. As history goes when forced to choose between his throne or Wallis, Edward (we're going to be calling him David since that's his nickname in the film) gives up his title and his future just to be with her (and may I say thank you because we wouldn't have Prince Harry naked pictures if it wasn't for that.) The film's other storyline is based in modern day where we have our lead Wally Winthrop who is married to a super rich British psychiatrist. Wally is having her own issues due to her struggle to have a baby and her husband's wandering eye. As the film goes on we are given an insight into both Wally and Wallis Simpson's life and how they endure their individual obstacles.

The main issues I had with the film stems mostly from the modern day storyline. With 50 Shades of Grey styled dialogue we are introduced to Wally's sad, pitiful life. We see these exaggerated yuppies come up to her, telling her how lucky she is to have a husband like hers who is so successful, handsome, and British (all this while he's practically mouth groping some blonde's ear.) Wally plays the dutiful wife ignoring his indiscretions and pumps herself up with hormone shots to increase her chances of pregnancy. All this would be fine and dandy if the lead actress played by Abbie Cornish wasn't so bad. I want to believe it’s the dialogue she's been given but she just comes off as a dead fish, flat lining most of her lines. You can play aloof and closed off without being a sopping wet blanket. Also Wally seems to have a thing for touching 18th century items in museums (something that is brushed aside because apparently it is totally okay to take off an antique dress worn by one of the most famous people in history and have NO ONE stop you or arrest you.)

The film itself is all over the place. Extremely inconsistent and no sense of flow whatsoever.

Maybe it’s due to Madonna's musical prowess but W./E. tends to play like a chic music video. It’s trying to be innovative and edgy with close up and out of focus shots. I found some of the transitions to be extremely uneven. 

This is definitely a vanity project for the Queen of Pop. See! Look what  I can do with a camera. Aren’t I amazing with my minimal, black and white styling? Huh? HUH? Can you believe this is my first time making a film? Yes, Madonna I can tell this is your first crack at film making. And I am totally cool with artist trying out different outlets and the film is decent for a first time.  I'm just saying that there is a reason why this didn't sweep the Oscars and The Kings Speech did.

The film is very disjointed as it flips back and forth from 1930's Wallis Simpson and modern day Wally. First it’s about her having a baby, then it’s about her obsession with Simpson and David, then it’s her husband who is probably cheating, and the list goes on. And I could care less. I wanted more Wallis and David. It was their love story after all. The film was trying so hard to pull a “Julie and Julia” and failed miserably.

I LOVED Andrea Riseborough who played the role of Wallis Simpson (which is funny because she stars in one of my least favorite films Angel.) I don't know much about Simpson but Riseborough totally portrayed the character as a strong female who I was rooting for the entire time. When she and Cornish were together it was like day and night. Which is why I scoff whenever they tried to parallel the two stories. Of course you feel sympathy for Wally when she is being physically and verbally abused by her husband but I have the distinct feeling that the real Wallis Simpson would roll her eyes at her. As Wally lives vicariously through Simpson the film makes her seem pathetic and a tad obsessive. They try to throw a weak reason onto why she is so invested in the story (she was named after Wallis Simpson, I guess) but that alone doesn't support some of her actions. How can Wallis be compared to this limp bag of potatoes Wally who slaps on Chanel and some Black House White Market clothes and think she's emulating Simpson. Not even! In one scene which has Wally magically transported (in her mind) to the 1930’s Wallis tells her to “Get a life." Wow, some ones actually telling this girl what she needs to hear.

The thing that I did enjoy about this film was definitely the style (because I feel that the movie focused more on looks then actual content.) The cinematography is stunning and the set pieces and costumes were gorgeous. Also there were times when the camerawork was very interesting (but like this movie it was inconsistent and was all over the place after awhile.) Another little touch that I enjoyed were some of the song choices. Madonna tries to incorporate different genre of songs into the film to give it a certain edge. One song in particular called "Love, Love Alone" by Blind Blake is used very cleverly. Listen:

The song is great. However, it is used at the worst place in the film. Their are even times when dramatic scenes are accompanied with peppy upbeats that belittle and dilute the drama. It's like she had a bunch of songs that she desperately wanted to use and tried to crow bar them into scenes where it was not needed.
The story of Wallis Simpson and King Edward is very interesting. Being a history buff myself, I was so intrigued. I wanted more information. When did they start falling in love? How did Wallis meet her second husband? What was David’s relationship like with his brother (this was shown unsuccessfully by a random spurt of the two playing together, once again, at the worst possible time in the film) and etc. I was hungry for this information and when it started getting interesting it would flip back to modern day, to Wally, who I could give two flying flips about.

Now I do have to give Madonna credit. The movie was not a failure by any means. If this was directed by anyone else I’m sure the reviews would’ve been a tad kinder. I think the style of the film was beautiful. Some of the shots were very lovely and it was a very interesting way to tell a story so aged. However, her inconsistencies come through. Their was one scene which involved booze, drugs, and the Sex Pistols, but the film doesn’t know whether to be edgy (kind of what Coppola did with Marie Antoinette) or stay classic, sophisticated, and chic. It jumps back and forth and their seems to be no clear vision.  

The film could've been so much more.  If only they had nixed the modern day storyline and kept with Wallis and David's story (or at least focus more on them and less on Wally's story.) The style alone is one of the films few saving graces but it can't hide the flat story being told. The film is beautiful on the outside but hollow on the inside. No depth whatsoever and left me feeling disenchanted. C-


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