Madonna's 'W.E.'

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.

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Tim Reidy


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Frank Gibbons
6 years 7 months ago

"W.E." received a 16% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  Among "top critics" it only received a 6% rating (1 fresh review and 16 rotten ones).   The audience gave it a whopping 61%.  
Gerelyn Hollingsworth
6 years 7 months ago


 NYT review:

The best version of the story, imho, was ''Edward and Mrs. Simpson'' on Masterpiece Theater. Edward Fox as the king.

Joshua DeCuir
6 years 7 months ago
It's Edward, not Henry.  Right number, though.

I've seen a preview and read some reviews.  The biggest problem with the film is that it grates against the historical record by showing Ms. Simpson as the victim of come cold, hard institution that has cast her aside all in the name of protecting itself (this part, at least, certainly bears Madonn'a stamp).  Unfortunately, we now know Simpson (and Edward) was a no more than a shallow cad, and most certainly a Nazi sympathizer, and both were virulent racists - just read some of Edward's commentary when he was governor-general of the Bahamas.  Why we continue to romanticize these people is unfathomable to me - except for the aforementioned individual vs. the heartless institution angle.
6 years 7 months ago
I thought "The King's Speech" covered, in passing, all we needed to know about the scapegrace brother.
 Winston Churchill agonized over the abdication; indeed, he acted as if it were the end of the monarchy if not the world. Both survived, and Churchill pulled himself together to withstand Hitler. Eddie and Wallis champagned off into - one wishes - oblivion.
 I did like "Evita," though. Liked it better on stage but had to respect what the movie did with it.
David Cruz-Uribe
6 years 7 months ago
Josh (#3),

Not to excuse Edward's racism, but it must be put into context:  Winston Churchill's racism (see his comments about Gandhi or the 1943 famime) was as bad if not worse.   The British suffered from a particularly nasty version of "white man's burden" and it showed.


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