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In 1998, an auction of the estate of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor causes great excitement. For one woman, Wally Winthrop, it has much more meaning. Wally becomes obsessed by their historic love story. As she learns more about the sacrifices involved, Wally gains her own courage to find happiness. Written by
W.E. is one of three biopics I have seen this year, after The Iron Lady and J Edgar. Of the three I think W.E. is probably the best, but all three tread the path of the mediocre. What W.E. gets right is Wallis Simpson, Riseborough is fantastic in the lead role and has great chemistry with James D'Arcy. The biggest problem with the film is the the second tier of the romance with Abbie Cornish's Wally Winthrop, though the romance picks up momentum around the one hour mark, it slows down the pace of the Wallis Simpson segments.
The script has high and low notes, the romance at times is reduced sappiness, but these are forgivable even when they are at there worst. What is probably the biggest weakness in W.E. is the often used close up hand held camera shots. The occasional one works nicely, but these shots are put in far too often and take you out of the story. In most cases the camera work could have been more simplistic, it too often feels erratic which isn't good in the more tender moments of the film.
The music in W.E. is beautiful and the addition of "Masterpiece" in the credits is a lovely song to go side by side with the film. However sometimes the music is a little over powering, once again just a case of less is more. The much discussed and derided scene with Wallis dancing the Charleston with a tribesman to The Sex Pistols "pretty Vacant", I really liked. I felt the scene was a fun and good way to show how frivolous the character could be, using the modern day Wally's imagination to keep the scene from feeling alien.
Undoubtedly the best part of W.E. is the costume and lighting. The attention to detail in this department is incredible. Every costume looks stunning and is meticulously put together down to the nearest diamond, and the lighting makes the landscapes almost feel like paintings it really is stunning.
All in all W.E. is a great attempt from Madonna to craft a stunning looking film, though the storytelling can be muddled and the film takes around 40 minutes to really get going, its once again forgivable. Historical inaccuracies put aside would have made this film a 7, but not exploring the Nazi element could have made this so much more interesting. The negative reviews of this film aren't looking at it from fair perspective and anyone with half a brain can see though not amazing, W.E. is at least half decent and for a directors second film pretty damn good.
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