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Abbie Cornish in W.E.

Madonna  has made a weird, brown-nosing and slightly vile movie about American divorcee Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) and the British royal Edward ‘David’ Windsor (James D’Arcy) who was forced to give up the throne in 1936. Decorous, swirling and time-hopping,‘W.E.’ – Wallis and Edward’s first initials, combined – looks good, wears its clothes well and has a rhythm free of fustiness. But it also has all the credibility of a fan stamping their feet and insisting their idol be understood.

Alongside a whirl of parties, romance and intrigue in the 1930s and surrounding years, Madonna and co-writer Alek Keshishian give us the parallel tale of Wally (Abbie Cornish) and William (Richard Coyle), a wealthy couple in New York in the late 1990s, the time of an auction of Simpson’s affairs at Sotheby’s. Again, she’s American and he’s British, and William’s violence and philandering cause her to seek solace in dreams of Wallis and an attraction to a Rilke-reading security guard at the auction house. It’s all about true love winning out in the end and women taking control of their lives – and to stress the parallels and how relevant Wallis is to our world today we get creepy scenes of Wallis cuddling up to Wally as the two time periods meet.

Madonna gives Wallis near-supernatural powers of beauty, style, understanding and resilience. But Wallis makes for a woefully ill-conceived feminist heroine. All the gliding cameras, outré music choices and dissolves from past to present can’t disguise Madonna’s own distracting obsession with her subject, which means she never makes a satisfactory case for why Wallis should fascinate anyone else. Riseborough’s acting offers total commitment in the face of lunacy, but it’s a shame she’s flapping around in a film with such a terrible script and warped sense of purpose.

By: Dave Calhoun


Release details

Release date: Friday January 20 2012
Duration: 110 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Madonna
Cast: Oscar Isaac
Andrea Riseborough
James D’Arcy
Abbie Cornish

Average User Rating

2.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:1
  • 4 star:3
  • 3 star:3
  • 2 star:3
  • 1 star:0
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The comment you type I have just watched the film and Absolutely loved it. Do not judge this film on the "critics" review it is a well directed movie, I loved the music, how she puts old style piano music over the present day scenes and new music over the 1930's scenes, Very clever. well done Madonna I look forward to your next film.in this box will appear on the site

The comment you type I have just watched the film and Absolutely loved it. Do not judge this film on the "critics" review it is a well directed movie, I loved the music, how she puts old style piano music over the present day scenes and new music over the 1930's scenes, Very clever. well done Madonna I look forward to your next film.in this box will appear on the site

This film is beautiful and the parallel story works very well. I decided not to read any reviews as I knew Madonna would be analysed in a very critical way but also felt that she was clever enough not to film something that she did not feel passion for. It’s artistic with a touch of contemporary style. Visually pleasing too. Don’t read the opinions of Film Journalists on this one, judge it for yourself. Blockbuster film lovers may not appreciate as much as the Arty film lovers. Enjoy!

Well, I've now seen the film and I can tell you that I enjoyed it! Not the best film i've ever seen but certainly not the worst. Andrea Riseborough was fantastic in this, though I wasn't so keen on Abbie Cornish, The security guard is hot, but my friend and I were wondering how he could afford that loft apartment in NYC, with the piano and all, Felt like Madonna was a bit out of touch with how non-superstars live! Also the slapping "wake up" scene was unitentionally funny, as was the dancing scene in the bedroom at the end. Not sure about the sex pistols scene either, didn't really work for me. The film held my interest and I didn't look at my watch once during it, which is always a good sign. I definitely think that if this film had come out by an anonymous director that it would not have been given such a hard time. It's only Madonna's first full length film, Give her a chance. Would give 3.5 stars if possible.

I went along to see this film as I thought the critics were probably giving Madonna a hard time. I was wrong. It may look good and to be fair, Andrea Riseborough does a terrific portrayal as Wallis and it looks very pretty, but OMG - the dialogue - laugh out loud funny! When the Security Guard appears in a bearskin and a kilt - and this on the day of the Scottish Referendum - the dialogue was drowned out by the sound of the audience guffawing... And the music - talk about over the top! Line like 'You can walk me home if you put your pants on'... Worth seeing but for all the wrong reasons.

I was very pleasantly surprised by this film. That's not to say it's a unique taken on W&E, or even that the parallel lives/fantasy friend theme hasn't been done before. But the story's strong, and the casting of Andrea Riseborough as Wallis Simpson was a superb choice. . Madge has an excellent eye for detail - this is one of the most visually arresting films I've seen in a long time. The choice of homes/locations, the aerial photography, and the sets were great. Wardrobe, jewellery and other detail was all very, very carefully chosen, and this film's a must for anyone who likes the styling of the 30's/40's period.   . Riseborough is both an excellent actress and clotheshorse - she was knockout in everything, but particularly the geometric pattern suit. Wow. What surprised me most is that Madge co-wrote the script - it's not bad, though the late 90's marriage wasn't totally convincing.  But she clearly did her homework very thoroughly.  She certainly knows all the right people to get the best locations, props, etc. I surprised myself by going to see it for a second time tonight. For a first film, this is very good, and I hope Madge comes up with more.  Keep this up and I can see Oscars a few years down the line.  Well attended for both Mon and Tue eve, and no mid-film walkers. Three stars or 7/10.

Easy on the eye, but some of the characters were unconvincing e..g Cornishe's violent surgeon husband. A film that glamorises smoking and unglamorises men! Why was Bertie portrayed as so weak? Wallace Simpson has always come across as a shallow, relationship breaking indivudual, happy to flirt with Nazi sympathisers and live a life of selfish decadence. This film touches little on the truth!

The reviews for W.E seem to have nothing to do with what te film actually is, and everything with who directed it. I found it surprisingly good, and so did the people who went with me. Great escapism and visual style. Oh yes, by the way, it has flaws, like every single movie I've seen. A nice 4/5.

No one can be in any doubt whose film this is as Madonna not only directs but co writes and co-produces. Once you have seen it you will realise why she has taken 53 years to direct one because she really can't direct. This is a vanity project that quickly exposes that as a film this is all Emporers new clothes. It may look shiny and smart and no doubt her entourage will have told her it is wonderful. It isn't! It is slow, boring and at times the music drowns out the action. It is vacuous and switches from old to new to try to contrast the two female lead characters. It is a film aimed solely at a female audience and they deserve much better than this. Riseborough is good but Cornish plays a cliche and she really needs to get rid of her agent if this and sucker punch are what they put her up for. It is overlong and dull as a film and the male characters apart from the Security Guard are almost all unsympathetically portrayed. I looked across during one of the many empty moments and saw a man wth his female partner. He looked like he was contemplating biting off his own arm to try to escape the film. Don't go, trust me it isn't worth it.

I found it to be quite good, i dont agree with this review at all, like most of the reviews for a MADONNA film they seem to be bashing it because it's the thing to do. Thank god for the few publicationsthat have seen that whilst it has a few problems she has done a pretty good job.

As I haven't seen the film yet it's impossible for me to comment on the content at present, however I understand that Madonna is trying to make Wallace a more human character in this film and less of 'a demon what stole us king' I'm sure at the time of the abdication, the press and society generally were super-mean to Wallace and looked for every piece of dirt they could find on her. It's very easy to think of Wallace as a pushy, greedy, vain, nazi sympathiser, but Madonna is looking beyond all the mud slinging and is trying to look at things from Wallace's point of view, showing the burden of having someone give up a kingdom for you...quite a responsibility, as one would feel obliged to stay in the relationship, regardless of future happiness. No-one ever thinks about it in these terms, I think this is what Madonna wants to say. Also, I think critics and others want this film to fail as it is Madonna working in film, a medium in which she has been largely unsuccessful in, in the past. Looking forward to seeing it.

I thought Madge was going for a souped up Lars Von Trier... what a waste of the sublime abby cornish and the brilliant Angela Riseborough... it pretty to look at .. and passes a easy 110 minutes...but dont give up the day job