September 4, 2011

Wallis, Edward + Madonna… It’s Not Good!

Word from the Venice Film Festival is that the new Madonna-directed film, WE, is pretty ghastly. Madonna makes very liberal  use of the truth, or the truth as it’s generally accepted. In fact, as she says in an interview, that she “wasn’t interested in making a straight-forward bio-pic” and that it’s her “point of view, after digesting all of the information and doing all of the years of research…” W_E_ (6) So she uses the story of a young woman named Wally to tell the story, going back and forth in time a la Julie & Julia, because the truth is subjective.  Madonna said that she used the success of The King’s Speech as “laying the groundwork for her film”.

W_E-006Somehow, this view of W+E is about the last thing I think either of them would be caught doing!

Here’s the Guardian’s hilarious take on Madonna and the film, with a link to Xan Brooks’ scathing review, including a clip of Madonna’s press conference in Venice where’s she’s dressed in an approximation of Wallis herself.

Age: 53.

Appearance: Ghost of Gaga Yet to Come.

What has she done? She's directed a hilarious new film.

What's it called? W.E.

About what? Wallis Simpson.

You mean the loud American girl in The King's Speech? That's her.

What makes her film-worthy? Well, for one thing King Edward VIII abdicated to marry her. Then there are the divorces, her notorious love of clothes, jewels and wealth and the accusations of Nazi sympathies.

I guess. She's not exactly an obvious subject for a comedy, though, is she? Oh, the film's not supposed to be funny: it's a period drama. It's just laughably bad. At least according to the critics. The first screening, at this year's Venice film festival, had the audience rolling in the aisles.

What's so funny about it? Various things, not least the fact that Simpson's story is told in parallel with the story of a woman in 1990s New York, who, in the words of our reviewer Xan Brooks, "is obsessed by the woman to a degree that struck me as deeply worrying, but which Madonna presents as evidence of impeccable good taste". Oh, and sometimes Simpson's ghost visits the woman in the 1990s.

Any stand-out scenes? So glad you asked. As it happens, yes, one scene has made a particularly lasting impression: an extended dream sequence in which Edward spikes the drinks of his royal entourage, causing an intoxicated Wallis to leap on stage and dirty dance with a Maasai tribesman.

Did that actually happen? Almost definitely not, and if it had, they certainly wouldn't have danced, as they do in the film, to the Sex Pistols' hit Pretty Vacant. Which, while admittedly an anachronistic choice, does sum up just about every review the film's received.

Do say: "It's the film The King's Speech could have been."

Don't say: "Like a virgin, touching a camera for the very first time."W_E_-003As the Guardian also says, “It is certainly a slightly revisionist take on the story, with Edward coming across as a frustrated social reformer demanding better housing for the poor before sipping another gin martini.” W_E_-004 Said the Guardian’s film critic of Madonna’s last directorial effort, film-goers were “in a state of clinical shock, deathly pale and mewing like maltreated kittens" after watching it.

However, I do understand that the costuming is spectacular, W_E_ (4)and from what I saw in the most recent Vanity Fair spread about the film, the clothes and sets are wonderful.


  1. Oh no, it does sound rather ghastly. Will still have to see it, though - as one would rubberneck a train wreck... if only to swoon over the costumes. Great posting! xxxx

  2. Yikes! In that swimsuit still, the positions should have been reversed, from what I have read. I am looking forward to Anne Sebba's new book "That Woman" which promises to be the mist accurate portrayal of Wallis Simpson to date.

  3. I've read worse critques than the Guardian's. But oh dear, why does she bother? Making a film about beautiful clothes does seem to sum it up. Perhaps that's a good metaphor for the couple - completely shallow and pointless.

  4. I recall that the reviews of "Evita" were less than favorable but the costumes won an award. That said, "Evita" is one my favorite movies and I can't tell you how many times I have watched it!

  5. I am so sorry to learn about the negative reviews. I had high hopes for this film. I wish someone would come along and do the story justice. Perhaps it will be worth watching for the art direction.

  6. The story has been told to death. Just my opinion. Very shallow people. A very , very weak and pathetic man.
    Completely dominated and then humiliated by a woman without a soul.
    She was astonished that he was forced to abdicate....and "kept up appearances" sort of.....during their life together. They "visited" all sorts of people...who would " host" them. They lived, in my opinion.....a very sad and vacant life!

    My favorite person in their life story was the black man who was the "head person" at their house in Paris. Now that guy was a Prince. Truly elegant. And a Prince.

    The rest of it....was stagey ,shallow posturing! Just my opinion!!!

    Once I was on a group trip with Ivana Trump! The entire time she was posing for the photographers. Entire time. Not one moment did I see her live a life. Same thing.....I think! These two!

    That is what they picked!
    That said. I will see the movie for the art direction and the costumes.........

    I already know the broke my heart long ago!

  7. I recently watched a new documentary on her life as new documents, her letters have been released showing a completely different side to Wallis. She did not want to marry him, she even wrote to the Government urging them to not allow him to abdicate. Her letters to her husband at the time showed a woman trapped in a situation she had no control over. She was desperate to escape but he was clingy and suicidal. Very interesting. Article here:

  8. Oh my! Sounds painful to watch. I think I'll skip this one.

  9. I'm just glad she didn't poise on the patterned sofa with her patterned dress.

  10. Ouch! Sounds painfull to watch. The images look great though...Modonna did remember to include the Dogs, right?

    It sounds like WE could be playing on he TV shortly where I can hit the mute button, play my own sound track and sit back to enjoy the set designs, fashions and pack of Pugs.

    Hmmmm, all style and little substance. Where'd that idea come from? ;)

  11. The Anne Sebba biography apparently includes numerous letters written to Ernest Simpson by the Duchess, after the abdication, apparently most apologetic and regretful in tone. Must have come from ES's daughter from his first marriage (still living) or his son by his third (still living). If so, Sebba has managed to get a new angle no one else has.

  12. Madge should have done this as a fashion shoot (you know all the major mags would want it,) and people would be raving about it, not against it. I am sure she hates the defeat she reaps every time she goes near film.

  13. It's so perfect that Madonna would create a piece of visually great crap! Totally appropriate for the two Windsors were purely style over substance, both prior to and following the Abdication. When Madonna bought the home Cecil Beaton had lived in I should have seen this W.E. As a logical next just figures she would find an affinity for such a brittle, vain, selfish woman. Ugh.

  14. Getting wasted and dirty dancing with Maasai tribesmen to the Sex Pistols. Man have I been there.

  15. Madonna, don't I just love to hate her! Ditto Mrs. Boo-kay, except replace the tribesmen/sex pistols with gay designers and Stevie Nicks...oh my.

  16. The program Edward and Mrs Simpson was on Masterpiece theatre in the 80s. Well done. Doesn't sound like Madonna's production will come close to accurately representing Wallis and Edward. Such a shame.


  17. Pas de probleme. I'll watch it on mute.

  18. I have read that Madonna now owns a number of pieces of Wallis' jewelry. Any Pigtown readers have details?

  19. I'm not one to let this woman have an out. But the one thing that strikes me in all that is mentioned is the intoxicated dance with the tribesman. If it is true that he was controlled by Wallis and felt completely helpless then the fantasy would be accurate. To make someone whom you feel has humiliated you experience that same humiliation is every beings most natural instinct for revenge. And if M knows anything it is how men fantasize.
    It's just that most of us would keep those fantasies to ourselves instead of splashing it across MTV or real film.


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