RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
STARRING: Abbie Cornish, Andrea Riseborough, James D’Arcy
I DON’T think I’ve ever walked out of the cinema.
Mostly, I’ll sit through anything – no matter how dull – but even the added bonus of a giant bag of pic ‘n mix couldn’t keep me interested in W.E for longer than an hour.
The critics haven’t been kind to Madonna in her directorial debut and for that reason I wasn’t expecting a work of genius with her take on Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII’s torrid love affair.
With so many biopics on the loose at the moment (The Iron Lady, J.Edgar, etc), all the pop star legend had to do was look to her contemporaries to bash together a half-decent tale.
An abdicating king marrying an American divorcee is hardly lacking in the drama department, yet somehow in Madge’s scrawny grip the lust, shame and scandal plays second fiddle to a yawn-a-minute story featuring Abbie Cornish as a desperate housewife obsessed with Wallis Simpson.
In fact, too much of the story focuses on the dull plight of Wally Winthrop (Cornish), a former Sotherby’s researcher who mopes night after night around an exhibition dedicated to the former Duke and Duchess.
This is all in an effort to escape her unravelling home life (cheating husband, fertility issues, etc), but Cornish’s character is so annoying it’s hard to give a shit – particularly when she starts bawling over Simpson’s jewellery like it belonged to her dead mother.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, wet-Wally starts seeing Simpson in mirrors offering her life advice in the manner of a low-budget melodrama commissioned by A-level drama students, complete with camera spins and ghostly voice overs.
It’s a shame this wholly unecessary and irritating framework is given so much screen time and the gold-platter love story on which this film could have been served is so bizarrely in the backseat.
Andrea Riseborough is criminally overlooked for her performance as Simpson and James D’Arcy is far too tall to play such a well-known short arse, though it has to be said that by and large he plays the abdicating King well.
Unfortunately they are both plagued by awkward direction and by that I mean a graduate of the school of lingering looks.
There’s merit in the well-observed art-deco aesthetics and fashionistas will drool over the sharp costumes and styling, but it’s like an apple pie with no filling – it looks golden and toasty on the outside but the inside is offensively empty.
W.E isn’t a crime to celluloid – though the over-long narrative is both confused and embarassing – but no attention to martinis and jazz can save the film from falling quite that short.