Madonna's take on the Wallis Simpson story is savaged by some critics, grudgingly tolerated by others
Well, maybe this won’t be the movie to turn around Madonna's faltering movie career.
"W.E." was directed by the one-time Material Girl, and is her take on the story of Wallis Simpson, the American socialite for whom King Edward VII abdicated the British throne prior to World War II. (You might remember seeing the other side of that story on movie screens last year; it was called "The King's Speech," and it did pretty well.)
Now "W.E.," which stars Andrea Riseborough (left) and Abbie Cornish, has screened at the Venice International Film Festival. And the early verdict is mixed … but on the whole, not very pretty.
Here, for instance, is the opening line of Xan Brooks' brutal review in the Guardian: "Whatever the crimes committed by Wallis Simpson – marrying a king, sparking a constitutional crisis, fraternising with Nazis – it's doubtful that she deserves the treatment meted out to her in 'W.E.,' Madonna's jaw-dropping take on 'the 20th-century's greatest royal love story.'"
And Brooks doesn't get any nicer from there: "a primped and simpering folly, the turkey that dreamed it was a peacock" … "an extraordinarily silly, preening, fatally mishandled film" … "her direction is so all over the shop that it barely qualifies as direction at all."
The Times of London wasn't much kinder, with Kate Muir suggesting that the film was unintentionally hilarious. And Guy Lodge of In Contention offered a neat turn of phrase when he dubbed the film an "irredeemably silly, self-admiring ode to life, love and all the fabulous bed linens in between."
Fortunately for Madonna, whose film career never recovered from flops like "Swept Away" and "Shanghai Surprise," not everybody hated "W.E." quite that much. Todd McCarthy called it "pleasing to the eyes and ears, but lacking anything for the soul," while David Gritten was downright complimentary in the Telegraph: "'W.E.' is rather better than expected; it’s bold, confident and not without amusing moments." (Still, he called it "silly and forgettable" in a report for indieWIRE.)
And the Daily Mail — which has been embroiled in lawsuits with Madonna over the years — manages to find nice things to say as well, though many of Baz Bamigboye's compliments are of the backhanded sort: "If [viewers who loathe the film] were to watch it with no knowledge of who directed, they would be pleasantly surprised. They might even find much of it enjoyable."
So that's Madonna's new foray into the movie business – a terrain where "rather better than expected" qualifies as a rave.
There's always that music career to fall back on, isn't there?