Monday, February 27, 2012

Madonna's "W.E." does an interesting juxtaposition of two parallel stories


We could call Madonna’s new film “W.E.” (or “W./E.”) “The King’s Speech II”  (review Dec. 20, 2010, of the TWC "best picture" of 2010 telling the story of King George VI), as Edward VIII gives his abdication speech, and the film does indeed add to our perception of history in the years immediately before WWII.  Indeed, one of the most disturbing allegations made against Edward (James D’Armcy) was that he could be in cahoots with Hitler.

The film hasn’t been particularly well received by critics, but Madonna has an interesting concept of weaving two stories, from 1930s (mostly) and the late 1990s.  Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish), is married to an abusive psychiatrist husband in modern day Manhattan, and has somehow given up her career for motherhood, but has not been able to conceive.  She starts working a Sotheby’s auction and becomes fascinated with the story of Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) – her courtship and marriage to Edward, and what she gave up (as well as Edward’s “sacrifice”). 

The film tends to make the six-decade transitions seamless, and the women interchangeable.  Simpson is indeed living the former heroine’s life in her head.  But she develops a relationship with a  former Russian agent Evgeni (Oscar Isaac).  It gets funny in sots, as when Evgeni plays piano without his breeches on, but his legs are not an embarrassment (despite his smoking – and in the 30s scenes, everybody smokes).

The music score by Abel Korzeniowski reminds one of Philip Glass.  There are a lot of interesting embedded period songs, including a performance of “The Twist” by Wallis as Edward is dying in 1972.

I love that old saying, "what do you mean, We?" 

The official site is here.  As with "The King's Speech", this film is distributed in the US by The Weinstein Company. Alex Keshishian co-wrote the screenplay with Madonna. 

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