Grazia Daily reviews Madonna's directorial debut W.E!

01 September 2011

madonna venice film festival

Madonna with Oscar Isaac, Andrea Riseborough, Abbie Cornish and James D'Arcy in Venice earlier today

As we mentioned this morning, Grazia Daily is super excited to see the Venice Film Festival in full swing with glamazon types like Diane Kruger and Evan Rachel Wood cracking out their red carpet goods. But it's not just the frockathon that has us enthralled – there's a few films on display too. Namely Madonna's directorial debut W.E, a romantic drama focusing on the affair between King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson starring Andrea Riseborough (who we heart) and gorgeous costumes (that we want). Our pal Emma Jones was among the lucky few to see the film last night and we've been badgering her ALL DAY for her thoughts. And here they are…

Wallis Simpson was the kind of woman who was accused of being more style than substance - and that, alas, is what Madonna has recreated on screen with W.E.

It's not a biopic. It focuses in flashbacks on the love story between Edward and 'Mrs Simpson', parallel to a modern day breakdown of a New York marriage. The camera lingers, in close up, over all the trappings of wealth in the 1930s - ivory silk lingerie, velvety red roses, creamy pearls and scarlet lipstick - Chanel, naturally.

Wallis, played magnificently by Andrea Riseborough, is a walking fashion plate in dogtooth pencil skirts, blue chiffon and steal-them-off-the-set cream flared trousers. But you can tell that the woman who writhed in her slip in front of a giant crucifix in 'Like A Prayer' is behind the camera. In one scene Wallis, a social outcast after precipitating the abdication of King Edward, strides down the street with crucifixes at her wrist and her hair arranged into horns. In another, she dances, dishevelled, for her prince to the soundtrack of the Sex Pistols' 'Pretty Vacant'.

Madonna's lingerie obession continues. Both Wallis and her present day New York namesake Wally weep a lot, not in a conical bra, but in dainty slips trimmed with antique lace. If there's one trend this movie could launch, it would be for nighties.

According to Abbie Cornish, who plays New Yorker Wally, Madonna even decided what the extras were wearing. That's the problem. When Tom Ford made A Single Man, its beauty was effortless. With Madonna, each exquisite shot feels like she deliberated over it forever. What W.E isn't is a meaty exploration of the woman who stole the heart of the King of England.

Ultimately, it's as insubstantial as the midnight blue chiffon dress Wallis wears to dine with the King - giving us a tantalizing glimmer of the flesh and blood woman who was a figure of controversy for much of the 20th century - but still veiled to our view. 

- Emma Pritchard Jones in Venice

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