W.E. are the initials representing the names Wallis and Edward, and the film is in part, the true story of the scandalous relationship between American divorcee Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) and England’s King Edward VIII (James D’Arcy). The film actually parallels two stories, one a fictional account of an abused society woman, Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish), who lives in New York, circa 1998, and has an obsession with the historical Wallis Simpson. The other is the real life saga of how the King of England gave up his thrown for the woman he loved, namely Wallis. The two stories merge together at the auction of Wallis’s belongings held at the prestigious Sotheby’s auction house.
The Sotheby’s auction of Wallis’s and Edward’s items, like the love story of Wallis and Edward, actually did happen. The public sale of 44,000 items brought in a staggering 23 million dollars, far in excess of the 7 million dollars that was originally projected. These are the same captivating items that fictional character Wally Winthrop drools over and uses as an escape mechanism to emotionally leave her brutal and indifferent husband. When she awakes from her daydream reveries she finds herself in the company of a very charming and good-looking Sotheby’s security guard. And so the story goes…
The film was directed and co-written by Madonna. Her influence is evident in the ethereal cinematography and the palpable sensuality of the film. The movie is visually beautiful with lovely costuming on very elegant and sexually alluring characters. The storyline is not profound or deeply meaningful and the characters are a bit superficial. However, the film has an enjoyable flow and smooth pace. To say it’s not entertaining, even enchanting, would be a lie. But with that said, it is not a cinematic Tour de Force either.
Now, at rental kiosks, W.E. is worth the buck or two to watch it. If nothing else, it is a poetic glimpse at one of the greatest romances in recent history, and is visually captivating in its excess and luxury.