In the view of The Guardian‘s Xan Brooks, Madonna‘s W.E. — about a lonely New York woman in the late ’90s (Abbie Cornish) obsessing about the late 1930s marriage of King Edward VIII (James D’Arcy) and Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) — is a “primped and simpering folly, extraordinarily silly, preening and fatally mishandled… jaw-dropping…the turkey that dreamed it was a peacock.”
Madonna’s direction “is so all over the shop that it barely qualifies as direction at all,” Broooks claims. “W.E. gives us slo-mo and jump cuts and a crawling crane shot up a tree in Balmoral, but they are all just tricks without a purpose. For her big directoral flourish, Madonna has Wallis bound on stage to dance with a Masai tribesman while ‘Pretty Vacant’ blares on the soundtrack. But why? What point is she making? That social-climbing Wallis-Simpson was the world’s first punk-rocker? That – see! – a genuine Nazi-sympathiser would never dream of dancing with an African?
“Who can say? My guess is that she could have had Wallis dressed as a clown, bungee jumping off the Eiffel Tower to the strains of ‘The Birdy Song’ and it would have served her story just as well.”
The Telegraph‘s David Gritten, always the gentleman, is a little more deft and roundabout in his partly negative review.
“It all looks good, or at least glossy, in the manner of high-end cosmetics commercials,” he writes. “Exotic locations (Portofino, Cap d’Antibes) are visited and luxury brand names (Moet, Cartier, Schiaparelli) tossed around. Wally” — Cornish’s character — “pays repeatedly visits an auction of the Windsors’ possessions; W.E. often feels like an extended infomercial for Sotheby’s New York.
“Occasional flashes of wit intrude. ‘Your Majesty, you know your way to a woman’s heart,’ Wallis says. ‘I wasn’t aiming that high,’ the king replies. But such moments are rare.”
The Weinstein Co. is release W.E. on 12.9.
Here’s an account of Madonna’s W.E. press conference by Variety‘s John Hopewell.