Madonna’s foray into the Wallis romance is poignant
W.E. (MA15+) Co-writer/Director: Madonna With: Abbie Cornish, Andrea Riseborough, James D’Arcy, Oscar Isaac
JUST when you thought nothing more could be said about the infatuation of Edward VIII with twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson and his subsequent abdication from the throne of Great Britain, along comes Madonna, the Material Girl herself, who quite obviously has a degree of sympathy for this woman who was reviled for seducing the king away from his duty towards romance.
We’re led into the story of the royal couple obliquely, through the presence of a contemporary Wallis, Wally Winthrop (Cornish), who was named after the Duchess of Windsor.
She’s rich, or at least she has married a rich psychiatrist (Richard Coyle) who, from the way he treats his wife, could do with some therapy himself. He’s a bully.
The connection with the royal love story occurs after the Duchess’s death, when Sotheby’s in New York is displaying her personal items prior to auction. Wally cannot resist being drawn again and again to view the display. And the items are beautiful.
The attention to period detail and design is one of the great pluses of the film.
During her visits to Sotheby’s, Wally meets Evgeni (Isaac), a Russian migrant, a classical musician who is doing time at the auction house as a guard. There is an obvious attraction between the two.
The film slips between the two worlds, many decades apart, perhaps trying a bit too hard to create a parallel between the lives of the two women, even to the extent of alluding to communication between them.
There is no doubt that, despite the story being so familiar, the creation of the character of Wallis Simpson is much more successful than that of her contemporary namesake.
This is partly because the performance of Andrea Riseborough is so convincing, helping to demystify the attraction that this most unsuitable woman had for the then Prince of Wales.
She ‘possessed’ him and she was the epitome of style, shown in the film with the use of exquisitely designed costumes.
There is a much greater poignancy to Wallis’s story than Wally’s, perhaps because of the mystique created by the woman herself.
Margaret's verdict: three and a half stars
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