Entertainment Movies
Entertainment Entertainment Movies

'W.E.' review: Madonna's embarrassing week continues

*1/2 (out of four)
 
“W.E.” may be Madonna’s second directorial effort, but she still tells a story like a virgin.
 
Guiding a script she wrote/botched with Alek Keshishian, the Material Girl takes a step forward visually from 2008’s sloppy, incoherent “Filth and Wisdom, which isn’t saying much. Unfortunately she also remains totally incompetent when it comes to shaping a story around humans with credible human feelings. Andrea Riseborough stars as Wallis Simpson, the real-life American woman whose controversial romance with Prince Edward (James D’Arcy) undermines his place on the throne (leaving room for his brother Bertie, the subject of “The King’s Speech”). Clearly a “commoner” like Kate Middleton would not have been so beloved in 1936.
 
Supposedly, the relationship between Wallis and Edward signified one of the great loves of the 20th century. Yet “W.E.” (whose title refers to “Wallis.Edward.”) vapidly suggests that Wallis simply preferred a rich, powerful guy like Edward to her perfectly nice husband Ernest (David Harbour), who was already a big step up from Wallis’ abusive first husband. Eighty years ago, evidently, there was quite the market for a woman named Wallis.
 
In late-‘90s Manhattan, Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish of “Sucker Punch”) has the unfortunate circumstance of being named after Simpson and the more unfortunate circumstance of being married to an untrustworthy man (Richard Coyle), who doesn’t share her desire to have a baby. Since her spouse doesn’t allow her to work, Wally spends her free time at Sotheby’s, where she fixates on an upcoming auction of Wallis/Edward items and a security guard (Oscar Isaac) talks to her with obvious hopes of doing more than walk her home.
 
Cutting back and forth between the beginning of the century and the end, Madonna drains all momentum from both storylines while misguidedly suggesting Wallis and Wally faced the same situation. Should we really feel sorry for Wallis and the privacy she sacrificed when ditching her husband for a man she should have expected would change her normal life completely? “W.E.” centers on a woman who seems to have known the consequences but whines anyway when they come true. It’s also unclear what Edward sees in her, other than her willingness to ask him about his work and ability to make a good martini.  Wally, meanwhile, oddly lacks friends and family for support but proves that anyone can obtain private access to confidential documents by simply lying and saying, “I’m writing a book.”
 
Even more problematically, Madonna again demonstrates horrid instincts as both writer and director, featuring dream sequences in which Wallis talks to Wally and absurdly emphasized smacks of a gavel during the auction. (It’s just a sale, not a death sentence.) Based on her awkward Super Bowl halftime performance, the time she spent making the grueling, deeply unromantic “W.E.” would have been better spent on dance practice.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 7:30 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com. @mattpais

 

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Shrug-worthy new movies

    Shrug-worthy new movies

    'Samba,' 'Southpaw,' 'Paper Towns,' 'Unexpected,' 'Irrational Man,' 'Trainwreck,' 'Self/less,' 'The Tribe,' 'Ted 2,' 'Infinitely Polar Bear,' 'Eden,' 'Inside Out,' 'Dope,' 'The Wolfpack,' 'Heaven Knows What,' 'Jurassic World,' 'Testament of Youth,' 'Live From New York,' 'San Andreas,' 'Tomorrowland,'...

  • Worst new movies

    Worst new movies

    The recent awfulness we've seen, like 'Vacation,' 'Pixels,' 'The Gallows,' 'Terminator Genisys,' 'Entourage,' 'Aloft,' 'Aloha,' 'Pitch Perfect 2,' 'Hot Pursuit,' 'The D Train,' 'The Squeeze,' 'The Longest Ride,' 'Get Hard,' 'Serena,' 'Cinderella,' 'Run All Night,' 'The Lazarus Effect,' 'Hot Tub...

  • Vaping is all the rage - even eclipsing cigarettes in some places - but is it addictive?

    Vaping is all the rage - even eclipsing cigarettes in some places - but is it addictive?

    From the second I walked through the convention hall doors, I could only really see about 4 feet in front of me, and poorly at that. A DJ was blasting an EDM remix of Kanye's "All Day." I had arrived at the Vape League Electronic Cigarette Convention in suburban Rosemont.

  • From politicians to bros: The budding vape culture

    From politicians to bros: The budding vape culture

    Health concerns or no, a culture has sprouted up around vaping—to the derision of many. A sample headline for a post on The Awl from December 2013: "Fake Smokers Insist On Fake Word For Fake Smoking."

  • Here's why there were so many dragonflies at Lollapalooza

    Here's why there were so many dragonflies at Lollapalooza

    Perhaps more than any one act--OK, except for Sir Paul McCartney's triumphant opening-day set--the biggest talking point of Lollapalooza 2015 was, surprisingly, the swarms of dragonflies flying around Grant Park. These gigantic insects (“gigantic” being a relative term) were seriously everywhere throughout...

  • Target to rebrand State Street, Streeterville stores as ... Target

    Target to rebrand State Street, Streeterville stores as ... Target

    Get ready to say goodbye to State Street's CityTarget store, and say hello to its replacement — a Target.

Comments
Loading
69°