Why did Madonna choose to make a move about Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII? Could she be chasing artistic gravitas? A reflection by Victor Stepien:
Madonna is not remembered for her appearances on the big screen, but for her music. Her attempts at acting have been mainly failures, except for "Evita" in 1996, where she sang for the majority of the film. Her personal life has even been, one might say, wrecked by film: her first marriage to the actor Sean Penn ended in divorce, as did her second marriage to British film director, Guy Ritchie. Still, somehow, the scandalous divorcee has weathered all odds and directed a new film, W.E., which opened nationally on February 3.
The film is very much Madonna’s movie; she not only directed it, but also co-wrote the screenplay. Her fellow screenwriter is Alek Keshishian, a Lebanon-born film director, best known for Madonna’s "Truth or Dare," the 1991 documentary that showcased her antics and debauchery during her Blond Ambition tour. Harvey Weinstein, the Oscar-winning Hollywood maven featured in the documentary 20 years ago, now serves as the executive producer of “W.E.” It is perhaps unsurprising that after so many cinematic failures, Madonna wanted to surround herself with long-term business partners she could rely on.
Foregoing a focus on her own life, the film hinges on the story of King Edward VIII, heir to the throne of the United Kingdom and dominions of the British Empire, as well as Emperor of India, and his abdication out of romantic passion for a mere commoner: the American socialite Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough). The viewer sees their saga through the eyes of two modern characters who parallel the famous love story: Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish), married to a renowned yet abusive psychiatrist, and a security guard at Sotheby’s (Oscar Isaac). The two meet as she visits a Wallis Simpson auction.