Friday, September 21, 2012
A Royally Tacky Mess.
Written by: Madonna and Alex Keshishian
Starring: Abbie Cornish, Andrea Riseborough, James D'Arcy, Oscar Isaac, Richard Coyle, David Harbour, James Fox, Judy Parfitt, Natalie Dormer.
Running time: 119 min.
Though it is embarrassing to admit, I often think of movie ideas. As they develop in my head, they start getting a bit wild and out of control, and I decide that I want all of this different stuff in my movie. It isn't too long before the idea starts sounding pretty stupid, and I flag the idea all together (and that is why I could never write a screenplay). Madonna, on the other hand, seemed to do exactly what I don't - she kept going with her frankly, quite stupid idea. First off, I think it was fine and dandy that she researched so much into the story of King Edward VIII and how he gave up the throne to be with American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Yes, that is a mighty interesting story. People love stories about the royal family, especially if your name's Oscar and you're made out of gold. That's when Madonna should have decided that "yes, this is enough for a movie, let's go with it". Alas, that wasn't the case.
Somewhere along the way, Madonna decided that it would be a peachy idea to add in a contemporary story. So along with the story of Wallis (Andrea Riseborough) and Edward (James D'Arcy), we have another story set in 1998, revolving around Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish), coincidentally named after Wallis. Wally is stuck in an unhappy marriage to doctor William Winthrop (Richard Coyle), and desperately wants to have a baby. She also happens to fall in love with a Russian security guard called Evgeni (Oscar Isaac).
There's not a hell of a lot that connects the two stories. It is pretty much like two different films in one, but one half is so bad that it eclipses the near greatness of the other half. You get small glimpses of connections: Wally is obsessed with Wallis, Wally and Wallis both desperately wanted kids. Wallis herself was stuck in an abusive relationship, but by the time Wally got her turn with the abuse, we were so far into the love story of Wallis and Edward that we couldn't be asked to remember what had happened to Wallis in the past. To steal a line from my English class - the connections aren't developed. They're merely glossed upon and tossed aside in the hope that the $2 paste will seal the stories together. To say that Wally's side of the story was unnecessary is a bit of a stretch, but she was a real bore. It was like she was Madonna researching Wallis, and research never proves interest for many other people apart from the researcher. No matter how many imaginary connections the two people have. This is basically like me saying that I'm going to make a movie about Vivien Leigh with a "parallel" storyline of a girl who has a siamese cat like she did. It is nothing more than an obsessive desperately trying to indulge that obsession anywhere they see fit.
However, while the film as a whole work is pretty disappointing, there are still some good parts. These, of course, lie within the Wallis/Edward storyline. The production design is superb. It looks like an even more lavish version of The King's Speech, with the cinematography capturing the glamourous beauty of royal life. While the direction is sometimes a little over-the-top (especially evident in the scene where Wallis, Edward and several friends dance to "Pretty Vacant" by Sex Pistols), and most of the time trying to achieve the values of a music video, there is still plenty to admire about Madonna's skill. I think she's the kind of person who thinks a lot more than she feels, which provides some problems where she over-stylises some scenes, but also give us something different to mull over. To keep everything running smoothly, though, there is the brilliant score by Abel Korzeniowski, who also scored the similarly fashioned A Single Man. His score is soaring, beautiful, and most of the time, completely different to what you'd expect. Forgive me for the strange comparison, but his score is a lot like Spanx - it smooths out all of the lumps and bumps, but it hurts to know they're there.
The film's hugest asset, though, is Andrea Riseborough. I've always liked her, from her small but memorable performances in Never Let Me Go, Made in Dagenham and Brighton Rock. In this movie, however, she shines. Her portrayal of Wallis Simpson is so perfect that it can't be called acting, it is pure embodiment. She totally eclipses everyone else in the film, though James D'Arcy provides brilliant support, and the pair share great chemistry. Abbie Cornish is okay, but I have the feeling that even her talent shown in Bright Star wasn't enough to overcome how poorly her character was written. As for Oscar Isaac, I forgot that he was even there, because of how pointless that storyline was.
I've tried to forget that the end happened, but this was really a page of our of "indulging the obsession for the sake of vanity". I won't go into detail, though you could probably guess what happens between the two stories. It is so unbelievably dreadful. And then, to top it all off, Madonna sung her own song in the credits. That was as tacky as the $2 paste sticking the two stories together.
-The impeccable production design, from the sets to the costumes.
-Madonna's occasionally good direction.
-If you wanna feel sad about yourself because of all the jewels on display.
-The erratic direction.
-The erratic, nonsensical direction in which the story goes.
-The long, drowsy running time.
-The complete waste of Abbie Cornish's talent.
-The fact that the title makes this film impossible to find on IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes, because it thinks it is "We", not "W.E." Grrrrrr.
What I got: