Friday, September 02, 2011
All the early word suggested that W.E. had the godawful (almost inevitably unsatisfying) Julie and Julia, unbalanced nobody&somebody ('Wally and Wallis'), dual-time-period structure, and that it further might borrow a trick or two from Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette. Uh-oh! Probably only someone as instinctive and masterful as Almodovar could get a nobody&somebody structure to fly, and Marie Antoinette would have been a disaster but for Sofia C.'s exquisite, hipster taste - so really isn't copiable or a template for anyone else.
And given that Edward VIII was an appalling, unlikeable guy in reality (whether Simpson was too is disputed), a female-centric, outsider/American like Madonna will be tempted, as art of being highly sympathetic to Simpson, to be evasive about Edward VIII. That is, if you don't soften the realities of Edward somehow, Simpson may start to look like a complete idiot, and at worst like a complete reprobate herself. So Madonna's likely going to be doubly tempted: to elide both Simpson's own significant sympathies with and ties to the Nazis, and the basic fact that she married a guy who honestly dreamed during WW2 of a Nazi victory and of his own future as Hitler's lieutenant-ruler over the remains of the British Empire is going to pall for most people. The latter point lends itself to a story of grim irony: Wallis Simpson saves the UK and the world by inadvertently helping to bring low the horrifying Edward VIII. But that's not a very romantic tale and, in any case, it's complex and can't be squeezed into half a film, so doesn't sound at all like what Madonna's offering.
First reviews of W.E. from the Venice Film Festival including this bollocking from the Guardian suggest that all of the structural and stylistic and thematic chickens that seemed to loom over this film have in fact come home to roost, e.g., apparently the modern-time-period parallel female figure in the film, Wally (played by Abby Cornish) says of Simpson and Edward VIII that they were 'naive not Nazis'. Well, we await the context of that quote - perhaps Wally is being an airhead when she makes that remark. But, preliminarily, 'Double uh-oh! What a trap Madonna's fallen into!' Apparently, however, the film has some nice cinematography, design, and (maybe) music.
I'm a big Madonna fan overall, but this project sounded bad from the beginning, has a pointless/stupid title (see discussion below), and now appears to be tepid at best in actuality. I will wait for a few more reviews before making a final decision about whether to see W.E. at a cinema, but things aren't looking good.
W.E.'s title makes me think of Zamyatin's We (hence our image above). And, seriously, wouldn't M. have enjoyed making a film of that more? Her music video work with, say, Fincher on Express Yourself and Romanek on Bedtime Story, etc. should have given her some clues about how to stage that sort of intelligent, dystopian sci-fi. And We's character, I-330 is an erotic subversive who says things like "There is no final revolution. Revolutions are infinite." One wants to say, "C'mon M., that's you! Film that." W.E., by way of contrast, sounds more like a film representation of M.'s faux-British accent. Triple uh-oh insofar as that's so.