W.E. are not very amused


I CAN honestly say that I have never walked out of the cinema until last weekend.

Usually I’ll sit through anything but even the added bonus of a giant bag of pic ‘n mix couldn’t keep me interested in W.E for longer than an hour.

The critics haven’t been kind to Madonna in her directorial debut and for that reason I wasn’t expecting a work of genius with her take on Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII’s torrid love affair.

With so many biopics on the loose at the moment (The Iron Lady, J.Edgar, etc), all the pop star legend had to do was look to her contemporaries to bash together a half-decent tale.

An abdicating king marrying an American divorcee is hardly lacking in the drama department, yet somehow in Madge’s scrawny grip the lust, shame and scandal plays second fiddle to a yawn-a-minute story featuring Abbie Cornish as a desperate housewife obsessed with Wallis Simpson.

In fact, too much of the story focuses on the dull plight of Wally Winthrop (Cornish), a former Sotherby’s researcher who mopes night after night around an exhibition dedicated to the former Duke and Duchess.

This is all in an effort to escape her unravelling home life (cheating husband, fertility issues, etc), but Cornish’s character is so pathetic it’s hard to care – particularly when she starts bawling over Simpson’s jewellery as if she’s pining after her dead mother.

Then just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, wet-Wally starts seeing Simpson in mirrors offering her life advice in the manner of a low-budget melodrama commissioned by A-level drama students.

It’s a shame this irritating framework is given so much screen time and the gold-platter love story which rocked the 1930s is firmly in the backseat.

Andrea Riseborough is really rather wonderful as Simpson and James D’Arcy (though he is far too handsome for the role he plays) does a grand turn as the abdicating King.

But they’re both awkwardly directed by someone who went to the school of lingering looks, meaningful gazes and ghostly voiceovers.

There’s merit in the well-observed art-deco aesthetics and fashion enthusiasts will drool over the sharp costumes and styling.

But while it’s not exactly a crime to celluloid the over-long narrative is both confused and embarassing – and no attention to martinis and jazz can save the film from falling quite that short.