Sunday 15 July 2012

W.E (2012) - Madonna

W.E is a confused mess of a film.  Is this a period drama?  Or a Hollywood romance?  Either way it fails on both counts, Madonna directing without an ounce of finesse.

The film tells the historically inaccurate account of hunky King Edward VIII who abdicated to marry his American lover and commoner Wallis Simpson.  This really is a butchery of English history.  Madge has attempted to tell the story from Wallis's point of view, but has failed to draw a sympathetic character, asking the audience to side with a calculating social-climber.  The nature of the relationship between Edward and Wallis is utterly materialistic - him showering her in jewels, her providing little more than a Martini.

Bizarrely, Madge then makes the facile decision to parallel this story with the fictional tale of modern day American woman Wally (living up to her name) and her English husband.  The characters are so shallow that apparently shocking moments like domestic violence are unintentionally hilarious.  Besides Wally being worryingly obsessed by Wallis (resulting in some disturbing apparitions), the parallel just doesn't make sense.  Most criminally of all, it makes a trivial mockery of a key piece in modern English history - fact turned into fantastical whimsy.  Just as royal memorabilia is sold at auction to a crowd of babbling idiots, Madge is trying to sell us our own history in cheap Hollywood form.

The cinematography is striving for arthouse, with liberal use of intense hand-camera close-ups and other, empty, cinematic tricks that ultimately amount to nothing.  The style is aiming for period accuracy, but is instead a display of English opulence as seen through American eyes and filled with Hollywood glitz and glamour.  One scene sees the royal couple drinking champagne, getting high on Benzadrine and dancing to the Sex Pistols' Pretty Vacant.  The concoction of old and new is simply absurd.  And seeing Wallis fleeing from paparazzi, apart from being untrue, is an unnecessary link to Princess Diana - let's hope forthcoming biopic Diana does it better.  Still, at least the costumes look nice.

Madge's own agenda with the story is obvious - an American woman marrying an Englishman.  We all know how that love story panned out, so perhaps W.E is her fairytale dream of marrying a prince.  But her cold-hearted, overly sentimental Hollywoodised portrayal is an insult to British history.