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Friday, 16 March 2012 22:06

'W.E.' Fails to Summon Any Passion

'W.E.' Fails to Summon Any Passion wegotthiscovered.com
Written by Diane Carson
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In her second co-writing/directing foray, W.E., Madonna interrogates the infamous Wallis Simpson/King Edward relationship from her, rather than his, perspective, the film insists. But repeated cross-cutting to contemporary couple Wally Winthrop and her increasingly estranged psychiatrist husband forces awkward, even silly, parallels as Wally falls for Russian widower Evgeni. Neither romance captivates because the parallel stories collide short-circuiting any involvement.

To be sure, W.E. fails not only because the Wallis Simpson affair with king-in-waiting and then King Edward VIII has been so dramatically presented in other superior productions. And it isn't only because the present-day Wally lacks the joie de vivre essential to energize her obsession with a Wallis Simpson Sotheby's exhibit and auction. It's that, above all, W.E. presents a soap-opera approach to the lives of the rich and famous, never exploring the intimate charge that unites couples beyond superficial details—King Edward VIII loves Wallis' dancing, Wally wants a child, Evgeni seems drawn to Wally's sadness (though he's a cipher) and Dr. Winthrop is no more than a boorish foil.

Technically, the editing also signals there's nothing to hang on to in the personal portrayals, for one shot too quickly replaces the previous shot, trying in vain to add some momentum that just isn't there. Similarly, the camera stays in too close too often, meaning emotional high points look no different from ordinary activities. Adding to the clutter, black-and-white archival footage periodically and nonsensically appears. Apparently distrusting either story on its own to engage the viewers, scenes from the two worlds abruptly interrupt each other. Wallis even invades Wally's world to counsel with her.

The interest should come from revisiting Wallis and Edward and swooning to their passion. The music signals it over and over, but with little to no effect because, as with the editing, it's overused, losing its impact when needed. Andrea Riseborough's acting has some substance lacking in Abbie Cornish's moody, unappealing Wally. The rest of the cast delivers unexceptional performances.

Wallis' clothes are beautiful and W.E. does exhibit Madonna's signature interest in dance, but apart from a few moments, the glamorous jewelry, clothes, and accoutrements are the show's central interest in this crazy quilt of a film. At the Chase Park Plaza Cinema.

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