Movie Review: W.E.
After the London Film Festival premiere left audience members tweeting their disgust and reviews from Venice were, to put it kindly, less than favourable, there was little doubt that Madonna’s Wallis Simpson biopic would be anything less than an abomination. But even the lowest of expectations will not prepare you for the turgid, vile, sexist, egomaniacal, achingly dull pile of shit that is W.E; the first film to get a 0/5 review from Screen Invasion.
It’s the story of a fictional woman named Wally who, in present day New York, is fascinated by the romance between Wallis Simpson and the King of England. As she visits a museum where the couple’s belongings are being auctioned off, Wally flashes back to the story of their affair in the 1930s; one that she considers to be a fairytale of true love and finds solace in throughout her unhappy relationship with a husband who will no longer sleep with her.
Her obsession with the romance is the material of a bad serial killer movie with Madonna making no attempt to disguise how creepy Wally’s borderline stalking of the couple is. As she walks around the museum, fondling their belongings and recalling key moments from their affair, you almost begin to question the director’s purpose with W.E and wonder whether her intention was, in fact, to make a biting satire about America’s fascination with the royal family that somehow went horribly wrong. But it’s not. The ludicrous premise is played with an utter seriousness that would be unintentionally hilarious if this heroine wasn’t so painful to endure.
A rich white lady who doesn’t need a job because her husband – a doctor – has been able to provide for everything she needs, Wally lives in a New York penthouse apartment, buys $10,000 gloves with reckless abandon and does precisely what she wants all day every day because she has her husband’s salary to fall back on. Ignoring the vaguely sexist connotations here, the fact that a paying cinema audience is asked to sympathise with Wally – whose only major suffering is that her husband won’t impregnate here – in an era of third world poverty, recession, homelessness, depleting education, AIDS, war and disease is both insulting and offensive.
Wallis and David are no better either. As they sigh about what newspaper has attacked them, groan about how they feel worthless not serving their country and weep at how the royal family don’t accept the romance, their upper class woes are not only tiresome but impossible to relate to .
On top of these pathetic characters, Madonna’s film is also entirely void of plot, conflict or drama. In the film’s main strand, most of the time is spent witnessing Wally simply walk around a museum while its flashbacks are random and unconnected. The director believes she can compensate for this by throwing every possibly stylistic devise you can imagine at the film – everything from black and white footage, tracking shots, surreal dream sequences and flashy editing are utilised here – hoping that it’ll create some kind of excitement. But when the style is dealt so carelessly and without merit, W.E. amounts to little more than an elongated perfume ad.
Simply put, the film is insufferable. The fact that Madonna put up the money to make this passion project herself may be credible, but sadly it seems that the singer just cannot direct. Stick to what you know best, eh, Madge? Whatever that may be.