Since the decline of her pop culture relevance, Madonna has seen her status as the ‘princess of pop’ snatched away from her by contemporary starlets who try to embrace her ‘material girl’ mentality pioneered in the 1980s. Coming off of the disaster that was Filth and Wisdom (2008), Madonna is said to of hoped that her latest feature film W.E. would establish her ‘artistic credibility’, essentially helping her career as a filmmaker rebound from the similar depths of ineptitude that it rests in. All that W.E. goes to show though is that even with commendable acting , exquisite sets, and costume design Madge’s utter lack of focus and transparent vanity has only crystallized her reputation as the ‘princess of pretension’.
Its funny because Weird Al’s questions aren’t outrageous in the slightest. Instead its Madonna’s ridiculous answers (which judging from her usual interviews were probably as ridiculous even in their intended context) that achieves the comedic effect here.
W.E desperately tries to tie two stories together. The first takes place in the now and features Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish), who is a young and attractive New York City stay at home yuppie obsessed with a Duke and Duchess of Windsor gallery exhibit. Her adulterous and brutish husband’s lack of interest in rearing children and physical abuse drives her into the arms of a soft spoken security guard named Evgeni (Oscar Isaac). The second story line goes back to the 1930s and follows the Duke and Duchess of York, Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) and King Edward VIII (James D’Arcy), and their struggle to be together. Visually speaking, W.E’s rich, elaborate sets and costumes are of a great advantage to the film, and its Academy nomination for best costume design may just attest to this. The problem is that W.E. starts off with a remarkable speed, throwing us back and forth between both Winthrop and Simpson’s lives. It doesn’t take long for this momentum to go from being exceptional to nauseating, as it seems that every five minutes we are transported to a scene with a little subtitle informing us of just what we’re supposed to be watching. In the cataclysm of scenes that open W.E., we see Simpson violently kicked in the stomach by her first husband, and with this it’s clear that Madonna is gearing us up for a wild roller coaster ride. The problem is that Madge overreaches her grasp with the exhausting back and forth of time periods and stories, causing this ride to careen of its rails in the first fifteen minutes alone. Although the title, W.E, is Madge’s clever way of relating Wally and Evgeni’s relationship to Wallis and Edwards’, it would be more accurate if W.E. stood for What Ever.