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W.E. Movie Review: One Makes A Great Martini, The Other Doesn't

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Recreating the flavor if not the facts of a distant scandalous time, Madonna's second venture into filmmaking as co-writer/director of W.E. mixes contemporary celebrity worship with backwards time travel period nostalgia. But with only surface glimpses of that elite world on both sides of the Atlantic, however jazzed up and glossy.

Madonna, possibly drawing from her own paparazzi dodging experiences when married and nesting with UK big screen bad boy Guy Ritchie in 2000 and then divorcing him in 2008, focuses in W.E. on two women divided by time and space but not obsessions. Andrea Riseborough is Wallis Simpson, the reportedly effervescent American socialite whose romance with playboy monarch King Edward VIII (James D'Arcy) back in the 1930s sent the tabloids into assault mode against her, for her perceived audacity as a mere commoner.

edward wallis
King Edward and Wallis Simpson
Photo: Video Screenshot

Alternating with episodes behind palace closed doors of Wallis' social butterfly martini mixer maven privately peeved when not regretful, are scenes playing out in 1998 New York City, and delving into quite a different infatuation likely as intense and potentially self-destructive as Edward's own irrepressibly desire - that of abused and moody affluent Manhattan housewife Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish). And who was not only named after Simpson by her diva doting forbears, but is so fixated on her that Winthrop spends most of her waking hours frequenting an auction house hawking the royal couple's vintage possessions, just so the antique shopaholic can be near the mementos that endlessly mystify her.

There's little else to glean from this oddly dysfunctional girl bonding get together across the decades, made even odder when Simpson occasionally turns up out of the blue in a different century, to scold Winthrop for being such a sulking party pooper all the time. And while there may be some implications buried within this baffling story - perhaps attempting to sort out Madonna's own ambivalent feelings about stardom and the starry eyed near stalkers who nestle into celebrity lives without permission - you may not be too thrilled to uncover any of this, one way or the other.

So how satisfying or even thorough is Madonna's own mesmerized journey down upscale memory lane. Let's put it this way. From the look of things, or rather beyond the lavish look of it all, 'WE' hardly seems to be 'they.'

The Weinstein Company
2 stars

Prairie Miller is a NY multimedia journalist online, in print and on radio, and on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network's Arts Express. Read more reviews by Prairie Miller. Contact her through NewsBlaze.

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