W.E.: In bed with a twice-divorced woman
by Boyd van Hoeij
The second feature film of singer-dancer and occasional actress Madonna, W.E. [+see also:
film profile], premiered on the Lido in Venice today as an Out of Competition title. Reactions were mixed.
The follow-up to her debut feature Filth & Wisdom [+see also:
film profile], which premiered in Berlin, tells two parallel stories. The first involves the historical figure Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough), the twice-married American woman for whom the British King Edward VIII (James D’Arcy) abdicated. The second involves a 1998 New Yorker, Wally (Abbie Cornish), who was named after Simpson and is fascinated by her story.
Written by the director and Alek Keshishian (who directed the documentary Madonna: Truth or Dare), the fictional film slides back and forth between the 1930s and 1998, when Sotheby’s in New York auctioned off many items that belonged to Wallis and Edward (hence the film’s title, W.E.).
Wally, a former employee of Sotheby’s, spends so much time at the exhibition and subsequent auction that she comes into contact with a kind Russian security guard (Oscar Isaac) who works there. He seems to offer her a lot more comfort than the two-timing shrink (Richard Coyle) to whom she is married.
The film seems to suggest love can be a force that is inconvenient, disruptive, all-consuming and destabilising. Befitting a film made by an American woman about British royalty, the film very much takes Simpson’s point of view, who, or so the film argues, sacrificed a great deal herself as well in order to live what has been called the romance of the 20th century.
As Simpson, Shooting Star 2011 Andrea Riseborough is perfectly cast, though the contemporary scenes don’t crackle with the same abandon and energy as the period scenes, which also benefit from a lot of humour.
The Semtex Film production will be released in the U.K. in January through StudioCanal. International sales are handled by I.M. Global.
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