January 22, 2012

Madonna’s W.E. – my review

Jeez. It appears that when the news hits that Madonna is making her first full-length directorial venture, critics do not hold back in whipping out the extra long and flowery words that they normally save for special occasions to slate it. I know it’s strange imagining Madonna in a director’s hat but people seem to be forgetting that she is a born and bred entertainer. Plus surely she would have had a bit of a clue about films from the old Sean Penn days and I’m pretty sure Guy Ritchie would have given her a few tips even if just a few Post-its around the house during their eight year marriage. And if people are still holding a grudge based on her dodgy acting in Evita, well, it was the 90’s, we all made mistakes. The Guardian refers to the movie as “simpering folly, preening and fatally mishandled” and the Telegraph calls it ‘tultifying vapid film, festooned with moments of pure aesthetic idioicy.” TOUGH CROWD.

From the general chit chat knocking around such as “OMFG, what – Madonna has made A FILM!” it seems that people already had preconceptions about what she’d most likely bring to the table. Interesting that no one automatically expected that she might come up with something noteworthy or at least pretty good. It’s not like she’s the World’s Top-selling Female Artist Of All Time or anything.

She’s no stranger in pleasing an audience.

Admittedly entering the cinema with no real expectations (I hadn’t read up on the film at all), I was greeted with a very visually gripping and moving story line. I also hadn’t a clue why it was called ‘W.E’ – (“has she gone and made a film about the weekend?”) Turns out it stands for Wallis Edward – the film revolves around King Edwards abdication from the throne when he chose marrying ‘commoner’ Wallis Simpson over being King. 

The film opens quite abruptly. Just as we had sat down and made ourselves comfortable already I had a naked body in my face and an ugly shouty abusive husband. I must admit I was preparing myself for a bit of hiding behind my hands – it was rated 15 (this is quite a big deal for me) but it was the sharpness* of the camera that made me slightly on edge. It is the amazing resolution of the up-close shots that make you nervous as to where it will dart to next. One minute you gazing at slo-mo horses galloping and before you know it you have just seen a needle burst a layer of skin. You have to keep your wits about you, but this is no bad thing.

Albeit ‘done before’ the film uses parallel stories which combine the visions of a modern girl New Yorker Wally and the scandalous story of Wallis Simpson during the 1930’s, the woman she was named after. Maybe this was partly it’s selling point for me, the story line in itself speaks of power of the heart over the monarchy and the laws, which for that time was quite a powerful statement to be making. Any film that allows the viewer to relive and learn about history is fine by me. We also meet the stuttering George VI who ends up being heir to the throne after his brother steps down – I was a little disappointed old Colin Firth wasn’t cast for the role, you know, for the purposes of cinematic consistency. (Lol). 

The great thing about the film was the fact that we learn history can repeat itself, we can also learn from it too.  Although black and white photos of previous centuries can seem distance and different, the same themes still occur in our lives and in reality the world hasn’t changed that much. We feel Wallis’s fear as she is hounded again and again by the relentless paraparazzi, displaying uncomfortable similarities to the car crash that led to Lady Diana’s tragic demise. This notion of nation obsessed royal-gazing is still present and the fact that we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. It brings back desperate thoughts of ‘leave them alone!’ as we realise that all we are being fed is aggressive and ambiguous headlines which feed imaginations rather than tell a story. The parallel stories between modern day vs 50 years ago in terms of societal pressures regarding marriage reminds us similar scenarios exist today. In social situations and in front of the camera everything is great, behind closed doors it’s depressing for them. The film brings together the two women who can break free from being trapped by society. The ‘fuck it’ attitude is quite refreshing. Plus, with the news this week of Seal and Heidi Klum filing for divorce, I was kind of in dire need of an uplifting tale of romance. 

As modern day Wally reflects back on this historical tale she gains confidence by realising the strength of character of Wallis Simpson. Wally, married to a man that couldn’t give two shits and each night delivers constant half-arsed lies about ‘working late’, the exhibition in which she looks back on King Edward & Wallis’s life brings with it a new man. The security guard, who lightens the mood with cheeky chappy banter with his colleague whilst zooming in on Wally’s cleavage on the security TV, soon becomes someone she needs more than anyone. Yes, OK, he is an Average Jo security guard who quelle surprise ends up having an unrealistically lush flat and is also (by chance) a very talent pianist – but what’s wrong in someone defying a stereotype and being kind of unexpectedly perfect?

If there was anything at all that momentarily made me think ‘oh dear’ it was various actors awful attempt at the different accents. Always slightly confusing when character’s decided to chop and change nationality between scenes.

Me: “Err..what’s wrong with her voice?”
Charlotte: “I think she’s supposed to be American…oh wait……….yeah, American.”

It really bothers me when actors can’t do the basics of speaking with a realistic accent. There’s even tutorials on YouTube these days that teach you for free. The only other thing was I hope to god the actors fake-smoked in rehearsals because if I was to count how many times the men spark up I’d have to assume half the budget when on financing an end-less supply of cigarettes. Unless of course, they had resorted to pikey Pall Malls.


*Any camera buffs please forgive my atrocious descriptive words such as ‘sharpness’, I’m not down with the correct lingo I’m afraid.

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