Tuesday, September 18, 2012

W.E.


Abbie Cornish, Andrea Riseborough, Oscar Isaac
James D'Arcy, Richard Coyle


"Their affair ignited a scandal.
Their passion brought down an empire"





W. E. are the combined initials of Wallis and Edward.  Wallis Simpson was the American divorcee for whom King Edward VIII abdicated his throne.  They used to sign their eloquently written letters to each other with W.E. Their affair is now known as one of the greatest love stories of modern times. Imagine giving up an empire for the woman he loved.  But as seen in this film directed by Madonna, their romance wasn't really a fairy tale.

But this movie isn't merely about Wallis (Andrea Riseborough) and Edward (James D'Arcy) as Madonna chose to intertwine it with the story of a wealthy married woman named Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish)  who is trapped in an unhappy marriage to a renowned psychiatrist set in Manhattan in the year 1998. Wally who was named after Wallis Simpson used to work at Sotheby's and was totally  obsessed with any memorabilia of her namesake.

The film is well edited as the scenes between the two periods flows by easily. Yet sadly, there is a disconnect as neither story is allowed to flourish.  It is due largely to the fact that it never stops long enough to let them.  The Wallis and Edward part were more interesting as they led fascinating lives.  Scenes of the high society parties with lively music and stunning fashion reminiscent of the era was quite elegantly filmed.

Andrea Riseborough gave an exquisite performance. She really fleshed out Wallis Simpson portraying her as a much maligned soul who was quite tormented and lonely about being ostracized from the world. In a poignant scene, she laments "Every one seems to focus on what he gave up, what about what I gave up?" 

In contrast, the story line featuring Wally Winthrop as portrayed by Abbie Cornish didn't grab me to the core. Everyone in her circle of 'friends' kept uttering "how lucky" she was to be married to a renowned psychiatrist but we, the viewers were privy to just how horrible the marriage was. Then after a while, we didn't really care if she stayed married or not.  I believe it also took way too long for Wally's pursuit of her own happiness.

In conclusion, "W.E." felt like an elegant version of  the film "Julie and Julia" but without the recipes.  Although the movie was quite stylishly filmed, I would have been more satisfied if the entire movie was a biopic of Wallis Simpson featuring the hand written letters she wrote about her tumultuous life with Edward in exile. But I believe that premise is currently explored in a History Channel show which I didn't pay much attention to, unfortunately.


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