When Madonna arrived in Venice today for the premiere of “W.E.,” her second feature as director, to a media frenzy, she was surely hoping the film would have a better reception than “Filth and Wisdom,” her critically challenged debut. Unfortunately, that isn’t going to be the case, and some critics have argued that the high-profile project might be even worse.
The film, which was snapped up by The Weinstein Company and has been receiving good buzz for months for its ambitious storyline – a dual narrative about Wallis Simpson and a contemporary counterpart – and its bold casting of Abbie Cornish and Andrea Riseborough. But Madonna is the master of buzz, even when it turns out to wholly unwarranted.
Nobody was expecting Madonna to come up with a masterpiece, but it seems the Weinsteins have a real dud on their hands.
Movieline – MIXED
A weirdly sympathetic portrait of Wallis Simpson, the woman for whom a king gave up his throne, W.E. is the story of a life told through stuff: Evening gloves, cocktail shakers, baubles from Cartier, little hats trimmed with netting. It’s as if Madonna went back in time and forgot to talk to actual people, to find out how they lived and what they thought — but she sure did a lot of shopping.
The Telegraph – MIXED
It all looks good, or at least glossy, in the manner of high-end cosmetics commercials. Exotic locations (Portofino, Cap d’Antibes) are visited and luxury brand names (Moet, Cartier, Schiaparelli) tossed around. Wally 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,” he replies. But such moments are rare.
The Playlist – VERY NEGATIVE
All in all, we can only imagine that the Weinsteins bought the film sight unseen, or that they’re hoping to make a fast buck off the back of “The King’s Speech,” because despite a couple of solid performances, the film can’t be redeemed. We’ve never looked forward to Madonna going back on tour more, if only because it means that we’ll know, for certain, that she won’t be using that time to direct another movie.
The Hollywood Reporter – MIXED
This feeling of inevitability, backed up by snippets of Wallis’ own letters registering feelings of being trapped, and her and Edward’s eventual sorry fate as “the world’s most celebrated parasites,” is the one aspect of the story that rings true on a human level and is appealing and almost touching for that. The rest, unfortunately, feels artificial, programmed, rote.
The Guardian – NEGATIVE
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.