Thursday, 8 September 2011
TIFF 2011 - W.E.
W.E. (2011) dir. Madonna
Starring: Andrea Riseborough, James D’Arcy, Abbie Cornish, Oscar Isaac, Richard Coyle and James Fox
By Greg Klymkiw
The King’s Speech gave me pathological hemorrhoids.
Thankfully my piles receded after seeing Madonna’s W.E.
This vaguely feminist fairytale crossed with fashion porn is a wildly stylish, dazzlingly entertaining and sumptuously melodramatic flipside to that horrendous Oscar-baiting nonsense.
Instead of Colin Firth spluttering with nobility as King George VI in television director Tom Hooper’s painfully earnest snooze-fest we get an exuberantly acted reverie into the life of Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough), the snappy dressing American divorcee who wooed King Edward VIII (James D’Arcy) into her boudoir, forcing him to abdicate for the woman he loved and thus allowing his stuttering, half-wit brother to mincingly don the Crown of Jolly Old England, hoist Blighty’s sceptre and eventually provide inspiration for the aforementioned hemorrhoid-inducer.
Madonna and co-writer Alek Keshishian (with script consultation from Madame Ciccone’s ex-hubby, Rock n’ Rolla helmer Guy Ritchie) make the deliciously daffy choice to tell the love story through the eyes of Wally (Abbie Cornish) – named thus by her Wallis Simpson obsessed mother. Wally is married to a philandering, alcoholic, abusive psychiatrist (Richard Coyle) and spends her days wandering through the Sotheby’s public viewing of Wallis and Edward’s soon-to-be-auctioned worldly goods.
Here she meets the dreamy Evgeni (Oscar Isaac) a brilliant Russian musician moonlighting as a security guard. He’s an olive-skinned, high-cheek boned Fabio with a Slavic accent and a great Jason-Statham dome. He tinkles the ivories with passion and reads Rainer Maria Rilke.
He’s a catch!
Instead of immediately plunging herself onto Evgeni’s schwance, she mopes about wondering why her hubby dinks around on her whilst sticking herself with hypodermics full of progesterone – hoping that she’ll get herself a bun in the oven.
And then there’s Sotheby’s. Here she ogles Wallis and Edward’s finery and slips into dollops of their passionate love story – even occasionally getting visits from the ghost of Wallis who dispenses Miss Lonelyheart's advice.
Okay, I bet you’re thinking this all sounds kind of stupid.
Well, it probably would be, but Madonna’s insane, passionate direction yields a movie experience that is pure romance. Via cinematographer Hagen Bogdanski, Madame Ciccone allows the camera to glide and whirl its way through the dress and décor of the filthy rich with such abandon that she creates a magical world that we’re very happy to be a part of.
And I reiterate – this movie is, at its peak, pure, joyous romance!
Take, for instance Wallis and Edward’s first meeting. Madonna stages the ballroom dancing with such sweep and form that she has us soaring as high as her subjects. Or in another instance, Edward gets so pissed off with his party guests snoozing through a Chaplin film screening in his sumptuous parlour that he and Wallis serve up champagne spiked with Benzedrine to liven up the proceedings – and liven up they most certainly do.
Then, there’s my favourite scene of all – Edward gets Wallis to engage in a super-sexy dance with a Nubian sex goddess and Madonna stages the entire sequence with The Sex Pistols blasting out “Pretty Vacant” on the soundtrack.
Why? You ask?
Why the fuck not? I retort!!!
Maybe it’s the old punk in me, but I loved how Madonna is clearly enraptured with Wallis and Edward. She paints a portrait of a Man Who SHOULD Be King. He’s cool. And so, especially, is Wallis. Madonna clearly has little use for the simpering brother who eventually places his butt on the throne and his nasty, controlling harridan wife. (At one point, I even imagined King George's buttocks on the throne and wondered if his farts stuttered too. But I digress.)
I genuinely believe Madonna IS a Monarchist, but she seems to be suggesting that it was the British government and the idiotic protocols imposed upon someone like Edward that destroyed the Monarchy. What it needed most was a King and Queen who were cool. And man, the portrait Madonna paints of these fun-loving lovebirds is cooler than cool.
Madonna even has the audacity to create a loving portrait of the late Dodi Fayed’s father, Mohammad al Fayed. Again, I say – why the fuck not? It’s so obvious that the Monarchy had Princess Diana and her lover Dodi Fayed knocked off. Things might have been very different if Edward had been able to tell everyone to fuck off, marry Wallis AND keep his crown!
Okay, maybe I have a bit of a bias here. Now this might not sound like much of a compliment, but believe me – it is. It’s very heartfelt. I used to have the sweetest, cutest, friendliest white and honey-coloured Shih Tzu. I loved her big time. I named her Wallis after – guess who?
Why? Why the fuck not?
For so long people made such a big deal of what Edward gave up to marry Wallis, but you never heard much about her side of the story. Oddly, this was one of my own personal obsessions and I was delighted that it’s a central thematic question that drives this movie and the character of Abbie.
As I write this, I have yet to read any reviews, but I’d bet my bottom dollar that it gets mercilessly savaged. Everyone, no doubt, has his or her knives sharpened to gut Madonna – mostly, I imagine – for being Madonna.
Many critics and maybe even the movie business at large are ready to pounce. In this day and age, when it’s harder and harder to finance a movie and next to impossible to get a movie directed by a woman off the ground, an easy target is someone who is as rich, famous and powerful as Madonna. Oh well, of course, they’ll all be saying (or at least thinking) – she got her movie made BECAUSE she’s rich, famous and powerful.
There’s a reason she’s rich, famous and powerful. She has exceptional style, savvy and talent.
Most of all, making a movie about Wallis and Edward and focusing on Wallis is – dare I say – something we’d ONLY see from a female director.
So it’s Madonna.
Why the fuck not?
She’s been the primary fuel behind an astounding career and one with considerable longevity – driven by a brilliant ability to artistically reinvent herself. With W.E. she not only reinvents herself as a filmmaker to be reckoned with, she does so with audacity and aplomb.
A few boneheads out there will probably attack the movie for being campy.
Is the movie campy?
You bet it is.
Since when can’t camp be art?
If anything, I wish the movie didn’t spin its wheels in its last ten-or-so minutes and I especially wish it didn’t resort to being so on-point in these final minutes about the consideration of Wallis Simpson’s point of view, and for that matter, a woman’s point of view. All of this was there in spades and didn’t need to be so emphatically, obviously reasserted.
That, however, is a minor quibble.
I might also add that only the style end of things, I am so delighted to say that the movie is replete with characters who smoke cigarettes. Watching good looking people smoking on the big screen is almost as pleasurable as smoking. When will people learn that smoking is cool - at least on celluloid.
Damn! W.E. is one of the most entertaining movies I've seen all year.
I feel like a virgin all over again.
W.E. is being unveiled for North American audiences at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF 2011) and will be released theatrically in North America by e-one Entertainment.