When the Weinstein Company picked up Madonna's new directorial effort, W.E., and scheduled it for a Venice Film Festival debut and a December premiere in theaters, pundits started to wonder whether it might have some awards cachet. That it still may, but to judge from some of the vicious pans coming out of Venice today, it might have longer legs as a Razzie front-runner. What are critics saying about the movie, which charts the real-life love story of Wallis Simpson and the throne-abdicating King Edward VII?
The Times of London claims that Madonna has made a terrific comedy, but not on purpose:
"Screamingly, inadverdently funny in parts ... By intercutting newsreel, fantasies and careful re-creations of the 1930s milieu surrounding the king, Madonna manages to create scenes which - perhaps to her surprise - had 'em rolling in the aisles at Venice."
Wrote the Guardian:
What an extraordinarily silly, preening, fatally mishandled film this is ... W.E. gives us slo-mo and jump cuts and a crawling crane shot up a tree in Balmoral, but they are all just tricks without a purpose. For her big directoral flourish, Madonna has Wallis bound on stage to dance with a Masai tribesman while 'Pretty Vacant' blares on the soundtrack. But why? What point is she making? That social-climbing Wallis-Simpson was the world's first punk-rocker? That -- see! -- a genuine Nazi-sympathiser would never dream of dancing with an African? Who can say? My guess is that she could have had Wallis dressed as a clown, bungee jumping off the Eiffel Tower to the strains of 'The Birdy Song' and it would have served her story just as well."
From the Playlist:
Some of these problems could have been ironed out by the right director, but it seems that Madonna has, if anything, gotten worse since Filth and Wisdom. It's not that she has a bad eye -- the film's handsomely shot by The Lives of Others DP Hagan Bodanski, in the same way that a perfume commercial is handsomely shot -- it's more that her visual approach could best be described as 'throw it at the wall and see what sticks.' The camera barely sits still, stock changes from shot to shot, people walk down corridors in slow motion, all without rhyme or reason. And she can't really block a scene either, which is most notable during a crucial declaration of love staged with David chasing Wallis around a tree. It doesn't help that the editing is virtually nonsensical, and never misses an opportunity for a half-assed match cut; the cutter Danny Tull doesn't have many credits beyond a 2006 documentary about, you guessed it, Madonna, and it shows.
Even the Telegraph, which gave W.E. three stars out of five, had this smackdown lying in wait:
Occasional flashes of wit intrude. "Your Majesty, you know your way to a woman's heart," Wallis says. "I wasn't aiming that high," he replies. But such moments are rare.
Only the Daily Mail's Baz Bamingoye gave the movie a full-throated rave, and he thinks he knows the problem with the movie's haters:
It's going prove divisive. A lot of people will loathe it, simply because it's been made by Madonna. But if they were to watch it with no knowledge of who directed, they would be pleasantly surprised. They might even find much of it enjoyable, although the odd moment may have them wondering if Madge has committed treason.