Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Material Girl came in for a drubbing when her romantic drama premiered at Venice Film Festival last year but while the film sacrifices depth in favour of shiny surfaces and is by no means a masterpiece, it is not an out-and-out failure either.

W.E.'s biggest problem stems from Madonna's decision not to simply focus on the story of Wallis Simpson - the American socialite who caused scandal in the British monarchy by first having an affair with King Edward VIII and then prompting his abdication in order to marry him.

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Watching the film, which refreshingly tells the story from Wallis' perspective, you begin to wonder what on earth Madonna was thinking when she decided to tack on a framing device involving a modern Manhattanite's abusive relationship and obsession with Wallis, after whom she is named. The link between the two halves is so tenuous, it's hard to conclude whether Madonna wanted the modern Wally (Abbie Cornish) to be her proxy in the movie or whether the subsidiary story had on the back-burner for years but she could never get funding for it. As it is, connected only by the vaguest idea of 'women in the hands of men' the scenes in which Wally and Wallis talk across the decades are particularly woeful, and a lack of any excitement in the fictional modern-day segment makes you feel resentful every time we are forced to accompany Wally as she tries to get out from under her abusive spouse.

That said, there are pleasures to be had from the glossy but engaging story of how Wallis came to shake the house of Windsor. Andrea Riseborough is excellent in the role, giving Wallis a weight of personality that fills her out as a real human being, rather than simply being the 'evil interloper' caricature that we've become familiar with down the years. Her relationship with Edward (James D'Arcy) is sweetly engaging. And, even if Madonna never digs too deeply, she does at least give a tangible sense that although Edward gave up a kingdom it was, arguably, Wallis who made the greater sacrifices so that they could be together.

Reviewed on: 20 Jan 2012
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W.E. packshot
Romantic drama spread across two time periods to tell the story of Wallis Simpson's love affair with Edward VIII.
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Director: Madonna

Writer: Alek Keshishian, Madonna

Starring: Abbie Cornish, Andrea Riseborough, James D'Arcy, Oscar Isaac, Richard Coyle, David Harbour, James Fox, Judy Parfitt, Haluk Bilginer, Geoffrey Palmer, Natalie Dormer, Laurence Fox, Douglas Reith, Katie McGrath, Christina Chong

Year: 2011

Runtime: 119 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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If you like this, try:

The King's Speech