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

    'Bluebird,' 'The DUFF,' 'Kingsman: The Secret Service,' 'The Rewrite,' 'Black or White,' 'Black Sea,' 'Song One,' 'Cake,' 'The Wedding Ringer,' 'Spare Parts,' 'Leviathan,' 'The Interview,' 'Big Eyes,' 'Unbroken,' 'Annie,' 'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,' 'Top Five,' 'The Imitation...

  • Worst new movies
    Worst new movies

    The recent awfulness we've seen, like 'The Lazarus Effect,' 'Hot Tub Time Machine 2,' 'Fifty Shades of Grey,' 'Jupiter Ascending,' 'Seventh Son,' 'The Boy Next Door,' 'Blackhat,' 'Predestination,' 'Into the Woods,' 'Exodus: Gods and Kings,' 'America the Beautiful 3,' 'Dumb and Dumber To,'...

  • Missing boy, 12, located
    Missing boy, 12, located

    A 12-year-old boy who ran way after an argument with his brother on the West Side has been located, police said Sunday night.

  • Investigation into 'crash-and-grabs' nets arrest
    Investigation into 'crash-and-grabs' nets arrest

    A Chicago man has been arrested as part of an investigation into a series of "crash-and-grab" burglaries over the past few months in which thieves drive through the doors and windows of stores.

  • Lady Gaga, Vince Vaughn take icy lake plunge for Special Olympics
    Lady Gaga, Vince Vaughn take icy lake plunge for Special Olympics

    Vince Vaughn plunged first and emerged, dripping with icy Lake Michigan water. But it was the sudden appearance of another star who turned heads and had spectators whispering "Is that really her?"

  • Police release photos of suspect in shooting of boy, 16
    Police release photos of suspect in shooting of boy, 16

    Police have released surveillance photos of a suspect in his teens wanted in the shooting of a 16-year-old boy last month in the West Woodlawn neighborhood on the South Side.

Comments
Loading