20 January 2012 | jimmy_mack1973
A Semi-Noble Failure
Having finally opened in the UK, I've now had the opportunity to watch 'W.E.', having followed its coverage to this point with interest. I can't, in all honestly, say that this is a good movie. I'll back the common positives and reiterate that it looks amazing and Andrea Riseborough is wonderful in it. The score, while lovely, is over- powering at times - Madonna is obviously terrified of silence!
I went with the movie quite happily for the first hour. The Wallis and Edward scenes are effective (I thought the dizzying/choppy camera work worked really well contrasting with the vintage images) and reminded me quite a bit of Stephen Fry's movie "Bright Young Things". But they had absolutely zero dramatic tension. Largely, this was due to the fact that they weren't chronological, but also it was because (to my horror) they almost seemed there to serve the modern day story, rather than vice versa.
And as for those modern day parts ... well ... Firstly, I'll say that I didn't think the concept was bad and it had potential. However, they needed to be trimmed by about three quarters. Christ, did they ever go on. The dialogue was serviceable, at best, and toe-curling at worst. The character of Wally was about as engaging as a paper clip and that was largely due to Abby Cornish's lifeless performance. Honestly, I wanted to scream at the screen, "Stop whispering all the time and TALK, woman!" That said, if the movie had only cut to these scenes every so often and used them as well-timed interjections, rather than as a story worthy of screen time in their own right, it would have been more bearable.
The film really lost me in the second hour when I realised it had used up all its party tricks and it was obvious where it was going. (And, no, I don't mean the Wallis/Edward story arch, but how it was going to contrast the two tales, and what the oh-so-obvious climax was going to be.) By the end, I couldn't wait for it to finish.
There are some lovely scenes, though, and several nice touches throughout. But while the infamous 'Pretty Vacant' sequence is probably trying to say profound things about Wallis having a punk spirit, it feels rather out of place. (It's fun, though, I'll give it that.)
So, really, it's nowhere near the one star disaster many are claiming. And I, genuinely, can't see why anyone could charge it would be, other than to appear 'cool' to knock Madge. It's got too much going for it, for that.
But the reason I said 'semi-noble failure' is because, while I think it had some ambition, it's indulgent to a fault. At least twenty minutes of this movie are taken up by Abby Cornish wandering around Sothebys, exchanging in vacant platitudes with the Russian security guard, or looking blandly at something we're told should be exciting by the volume of the score. And, I guess, the blame for including such non-interesting stuff must lie with the movie's director.