Saturday, September 15, 2012


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The story of Wallis Simpson and the Duke of Windsor never captured me. And so it has taken me this long to sit down to watch Madonna's film, W.E. Madonna, who co-wrote the script with one of her own, Alex Keshishian, the director of Truth of Dare. The film tells two stories, one of a modern Wallie in the time of the 1987 Sothebey's sale of pieces from the Duke and Duchess's estate; and the historical report of Wallis Simpson's romance with the King of England, but from Wallis's perspective.

The parallel works for the most part ... I think that considering Wallie and her passion for the story of Wallis and Edward's romance is very real. Celebrity attracts attention because the non-celebrity looks to it to find pieces of relatable behaviors or fashion or beauty as evidence of self-value. Wallie is miserable in her life ... she's trapped in a love-less marriage and has given up anything that might have tied her to some thing that she could hold on to. Without any tether, she ties her self to the fantasy of celebrity. Ah, but that isn't a very strong rope ... as she discovers, looks can be deceiving. The part of the parallel that I thought was overdone ... when Wallie would see Wallis and even talk to her. That wasn't necessary, and it took away from any kind of magical element of connection by making it literal. The few people who have seen this film, or who will see it, will get it. We don't need a picture.
Andrea Riseborough
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I don't know enough about the real-life story of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, which were the titles settled on after Kind Edward abdicated, but I imagine Madonna did her homework. Wallis Simpson may have been an ambitiously social climbing girl, who bit off what appeared to be a life of wonder, and was in fact her prison. I don't know. But it isn't hard to imagine given what happens in many celebrities' lives if newspaper accounts and People magazine articles are accurate. Fortunately for Wallie, she can climb out of her fantasy and find a life, unlike Wallis who lived a life-sentence for her ambition.

I'm not sure why Madonna made this film. It's so pedestrian ... I would think that she would find a less worn subject. The only thing that I can come away with is that though she will have us to believe that she's above of it all ... she's still a girl from Michigan who gets a little misty even with her own celebrity with the idea of the gentry. She's kind of like ... oh, Mohamed Al-Fayed, who tried to buy up all of the Duchess's jewelry, and took the lease of their Parisian Mansion. He does make an appearance in the film. Apparently he has had in his possession letters that Wallis had written and exposed the notion that her life was less than fairy tale. Fayed seems to be obsessed with all things Crown, and since Madonna moved over there in her own less than successful marriage also caught the ... the Crown rage.

Of course another reason ... oh, and this is very Madonna! The jewelry! This piece figured prominently in the film, and wouldn't you agree ... she's probably dying to have it. Oh like a prayer!

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But the film is beautiful to watch. The settings- superb. And the actor, Andrea Riseborough, who plays Wallis Simpson is magnificent. Wallis Simpson was not, by the pictures that I've seem of her, a looker. Riseborough certainly transformed into the character. Abbie Cornish plays the modern Wallie ... ah, she was o.k. But the Russian security guard at Sotheby's, Oscar Isaac, ... hmmmm ... yeah, trust Madonna to know a good lookin' man.

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