- Actors: Abbie Cornish, David Harbour, Andrea Riseborough, James D'Arcy, James Fox
- Directors: Madonna
- Format: PAL, Widescreen, Dolby, Digital Sound, Subtitled
- Language: English
- Subtitles: English
- Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 2.40:1
- Number of discs: 1
- Studio: Studiocanal
- DVD Release Date: 4 Jun. 2012
- Run Time: 114 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 162 customer reviews
- ASIN: B006H11NUC
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 33,739 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
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A 1990s New Yorker finds herself obsessed with the love story between Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) and King Edward VIII (James D'Arcy) in this drama directed by Madonna. Unhappily married Wally (Abbie Cornish) is fascinated by the life of Simpson, the American divorcee Edward VIII gave up the English throne for. While visiting a Sotheby's auction of the Windsor's estate, Wally realises that the couple's life together was not all sweetness and light. However, she also learns of the sacrifices Wallis was prepared to make for the man she loved, which gives her renewed strength to choose her own destiny. Journeying between the past and present, the film contrasts and compares Wally's modern day journey with the story of the Windsors, from their early days in the spotlight, to their later years of isolation.
Madonna presents a passionate tale of the search for love and the meaning of happiness in W.E., a rich portrayal of two strong women resolved to find romance. Caught in a loveless Manhattan marriage, abused and frustrated Wally (Abbie Cornish – Limitless, Bright Star) obsesses over Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough – Brighton Rock, Made in Dagenham), the stylish American divorcee who captured the heart of Edward VIII (James D’Arcy) who abdicated the throne as King of England. As the Duchess of Windsor, Wallis spends the rest of her life in the glare of celebrity exile. Inspired by the Duchess’ determination to pursue love in the face of social exile, Wally escapes into the arms of another man (Oscar Isaac - Drive) whose love sets her free.
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WE – for Wallis & Edward, is two films in one, covering two historical periods, and so gets overdone in parts, or overlooked in others. In an interview extra the co-writer and producer admits her passion for dance, music and movement – and there is a lot of that, of haute couture (continual changes in all party scenes), and jewellery – which filter into and out of the key central plot, a New York sales auction of Wallis Simpson memorabilia in 1998, owned by Egyptian businessman and Harrod’s owner, Mohamed Al Faed. This collective feature may make the production appear colourful, and pretty, but without the main vital historical factors: the rise and growing influence of Nazism in the late 1930s, six years of war, and the evidence of mass murder of the Holocaust thereafter, the result makes it one dimensional and empty or vacant – indeed pretty vacant: the 1970s soundtrack by punk Sid Viscious of the Sex Pistols unwittingly is played over throughout Wallis’ rendition of the Charleston.
The main film unwinds about the twice married US Wallis Simpson’s (Andrea Riseborough) long affair with David, the Prince of Wales (James D’Arcy), who on the death of George V, his father (James Fox), became Edward VIII. However, he was unable to make his mistress his queen, according to Madonna, because of the bitchiness of his angry mother, his sister in law – a duel between modern Lady Macbeths, and his speech afflicted bumbling brother, as well as the involvement of a cabal within the British government led by Stanley Baldwin. She thus presents the case of the dashing gallant young King sacrificing his kingdom and his throne for love. The normally progressive Wallis is portrayed as a virtuous, self-sacrificing damsel, willing to set her prince free of her long painted talons for the good of all, but the part is halted by the producer when the happy exiled couple marry far away from the fiery dragons in London.
Unfortunately, by stopping at that point Madonna has chosen to doctor the evidence and rewrite history: that Edward now Duke of Windsor was poor and needed money from his brother when he was not; that Wallis was a woman of no political conviction when she had contacts with Nazis and was leading him on to be a likely quisling should Britain be invaded after 1940; that none in his family, his mother Queen Mary (Judy Parfitt), his sister-in-law Elizabeth (Natalie Dormer), his dutiful brother Bertie (Laurence Fox) (later George VI) was so hard, heartless, or egotistical to ever turn against him except against “that woman” who had caused so much division in the country and questioned the very existence of the monarchy; and, most of all, that Wallis was always true to the Duke when he was aware of her liaison with playboy Jimmy Donnahue, heir to the Woolworth’s domain Philip Ziegler.
Clearly the enchanted Duke had made his bed: he chose to stand firm by her because he never believed he had done wrong, nor did he question if his goddess truly loved him or not, or whether she was simply using him; then after ten years despite hypocrisies, lies, and dissent they preferred to maintain the facade of high style, of harmony, and as older couples of being daily dependent on one another and feeling lost when one was absent for any period of time.
Besides the doctoring, the film portrays sloppy editing: first, at the time of the announcement of accession of the new king in January 1936 the US radio announcer is heard reporting the death of George III (and not George V): should such a fact have been correct the monarch would have lived an incredible 198 years and reigned 116 longer than he did; secondly, Edward VIII was never called King of Great Britain and the Empire as was his title but King of England – a title last called even before George III’s reign in 1707.
In examining a story about love it is surprising that a person as interested as Madonna did not breach the subject of sex or of children either through historical evidence, virtual reality or fiction to give weight to the belief that Wallis and Edward’s love story was indeed the most memorable romance of the 20th century and not the greatest hot air show of all time. Why not?
Sixty years on, in a parallel world the fictitious Wally (Abbie Cornish), named after and totally obsessed by Mrs Simpson, lives an empty loveless life in Manhattan with a violent but successful British doctor. The sole similarity to the historical section is the glitter fabled life of celebrity society. The key moment arises when Wally encounters the ghosts of the past at the auction through their possessions and understands that in real life she can be master of her future. She is helped to rebuild and change her life by the muscular immigrant security guard Evgani (Oscar Issac), and she decides to explore the truth behind Wallis’ life through her private letters preserved in Al Faed’s palatial home in Paris officially on the pretext to understand Mrs Simpson’s life as a “foreigner” and an “outsider”. Al Faed consents to this request maybe imagining direct parallels between the affair between his own son Dodi and Princess Diana – who had died the previous year, and the subsequent acrimony with the Royal family over the unproven claims of a secret plot to have the pregnant princess assassinated to prevent a further “scandal” of the white Christian royals being usurped by unacceptable rich coloured outsiders.
Like in Carlo Allodi’s fictitious Pinocchio 19th century tale (and Walt Disney’s cartoon Pinocchio [DVD]), Wally stops being a wooden puppet with strings attached, gets pregnant, and becomes real. The ghost of Wallis, and the obsession vanishes. Did Wally finally see what Edward never could, and did she as an “outsider” approve? Maybe yes, maybe not. The answer is unclear because nowhere does Madonna show what she and Wally had really unearthed which was illuminating, apart from the obvious that life is complicated and nothing in families is what it appears on the outside. Again, insiders and outsiders. One does not need a 2 hour stylish disorganised feature film plus self-promoting extras to be informed what should be common knowledge – or was it a hint to all viewers also to get real, behave like Wally, to stop acting as puppets and to grow up? Perhaps that is what Madonna learnt.
Convinced? Nope. Impressed? Very confused. Good? You’ve got to be joking. A waste of time? Her time.
Like a poor cook adding too many ingredients in a dish to impress people, the real flavours cannot be properly savoured, and here the real message is lost. Maybe, but if the great plan of Madonna is to transform humans into puppets then everyone will be dancing to any tune she plays: "pretty vacant", "pretty woman", or whatever.
Unfortunately, the execution wasn’t to my liking at all. While the scenes in the 30s are captivating, particularly due to Andrea Riseborough’s empathetic portrayal of Wallis which is suitably brittle, yet full of inner grit when needs be, the modern segment was pure snooze.
The jumping back and forth between the two plots didn't add anything to the film, and ultimately, the way the two plots interacted with each other felt awkward and clunky.
Well done. i bought the soundtrack too and that was just beautiful with the Piano pieces haunting.
I thoroughly enjoyed the historical parts of the film; the styling was wonderful & I thought Andrea Riseborough, the actress who played Wallis was utterly fantastic. In fact I would have preferred it had this just been the entire film. As much as Abbie Cornish was great as Wally Winthrop, I didn't think the story added anything to the film & it was a little confusing & redundant to be honest.
It can be a little style over substance at times, but I really enjoyed this film. It's quite touching in places; an ageing Wallis dancing for a dying Duke is one image that has stayed with me. It has even encouraged me to find out more about the real-life story of Wallis & Edward.
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