W.E. (2011)

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Released 5-Sep-2012

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 113:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Madonna
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Abbie Cornish
Andrea Riseborough
James D'Arcy
Oscar Isaac
Richard Coyle
David Harbour
Case ?
RPI ? Music Abel Korzeniowski


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Descriptive Audio Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     It isn't always easy being married to a Madonna fanatic. Each time the Material Girl brings out a new album it must be brought straight away, whenever she promises and defaults on touring the country I have to share the disappointment. And whenever she brings out a movie…

     To be fair I have shared in the highs as well as the lows. There was her first few infectious albums and her appearance in Desperately Seeking Susan. I can say that I enjoyed her Sex book and the occasional albums that followed. Musically, Madonna has always been at the forefront or at least trying to keep up with the pace of change in the modern recording industry.

     When it comes to films Madonna has never quite had the same success. Her performance in Susan was pretty much a reflection of her own larger-than-life character and Evita managed to make best use of the singing talent. She has only recently turned her hand to direction with Filth and Wisdom and now W.E.

     W.E. premiered at the Venice Film Festival and from the word emerging from the critics present at the first screening it would seem that Madonna had created the most diabolical film ever displayed. Madonna is a figure whose confidence is, rightly or wrongly, taken for arrogance and she is judged harshly in all her pursuits. "Why can't you stick to singing, instead of thinking she has the right to compete with the great directors?"

     The truth is that W.E. is no complete disaster but at the same time it is a disappointing effort from Madonna. Some critics have decried the lack of sex in the film from the pop star who defined the raunch (although there are a lot of undergarments on show) whereas others have seen in it a reflection of a vain star without technical skills to make a film, deciding to effectively make a film about her own life and justifying her decisions.

     W.E. is a film set in two timelines. In 1998 Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish) is a young woman experiencing the emptiness of everything. Named after Wallis Simpson, the powerful and intelligent woman who either saved Edward from a boring life as King or stripped him of his kingly entitlements, depending on your point of view, she is obsessed with idealising the love story between the American woman and the British Royal. Hers, she believes, is a true story of love conquers everything.

     Wally doesn't have the same life. She is married to a much loved and respected psychiatrist in Manhattan and occupies a vast empty apartment. But privately he is a violent drunk who is undoubtedly having an affair. Like Wallis Simpson before her Wally cannot fall pregnant and desperately wants children to fill the empty space. When a collection of items owned by Wallis and Edward comes up at Sotheby's for auction Wally is there every day looking over the trinkets. In doing so she catches the attention of security guard Yvgeni (Oscar Isaacs) who feels an undeniable attraction for the oddly sad woman.

     The story of modern love, or lack of it, is contrasted with the chronologically told life of Wallis and Edward (the W.E. of the title). Wallis, played by Andrea Riseborough, is introduced to the Royal through a friend who has her eyes set on marrying into the world and pomp of the Windsor family. As luck and a little scheming would have it, the already divorced Wallis manages to secure the affection of His Royal Highness and so begins a love story that will captivate and divide a nation, until the King chose the commoner over the country and abdicated. Fans of The Kings Speech will already know this story well.

     Everyone, it seems, concentrates on the story of the King who gave up his throne for the love of a woman. But what, asks this film, did Simpson give up for the love of the Royal. Madonna's script, written with Alex Keshishian, doesn't really answer this question leaving us with the bland statement that being rich and famous isn't all it's cracked up to be. Critics have been quick to draw parallels between Madonna's life and that of Simpson, as strong women who can't find a husband who is up to scratch. If it is autobiographical to any extent then so be it. I just wish it was a little more interesting.

     Riseborough is very good as Wallis Simpson and Cornish does her best with her role which largely consists of her looking extremely glum with a haircut that seems to have been borrowed from Charlize Theron in a Aeon Flux. The two stories just don't intersect enough or give each other meaning. As with Julie and Julia, the film about Julia Childs, the lingering feeling is that one of the stories should have been ditched. The trouble with this film is that the Wallis Simpson story is tidy and very much to a strict historical timeline and the modern story doesn't have any real bite.

     It is hard to judge Madonna's directorial skills based on this film. It is shot in a very modernistic style. What is certain, to my mind, is that it has been over edited to the point where every scene seems to be composed of one or two second shots. Rather than quickening the pulse it is eventually quite tiring.

     Madonna fans who want to see the world through her eyes might enjoy the film for its aesthetic. The costume design is highly effective and there are some strong moments in the film. All in all it is simply lacking in interest.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     W.E. was shot on a Super 35mm film with some occasional 16mm sequences. It was projected in the cinema at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. That ratio has been preserved for this DVD release. It is 16x9 enhanced.

     The film looks good throughout. It is crisp and clear. The colours are well handled and vibrant although Wally's life is deliberately cast is somewhat monochromatic. The flesh tones are accurate and precise right down to the make-up of Wallis Simpson.

     There are no issues with compression in this film which places almost 2 hours of content over a double layer DVD. There is a light grain.

     There are descriptive subtitles on offer.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     W.E. has two soundtracks. Both are English, one is a descriptive audio. The prime English soundtrack is a Dolby Digital 5.1 running at 448 Kb/s.

     The dialogue is clear and easy to understand.

     The surround sound capabilities are well utilised. They are most noticeable in the scenes where there are voices in Wally's head. Otherwise the track has a general and pleasing ambience.

     The sub-woofer is used fairly consistently throughout as support for the music. It is often a powerful presence. In fact, at times, such as the scene when Wally first goes to Yvgeni's apartment it is so powerful as to shake the room and override the scene.

     Music is by Abel Korzeniowski who provided the score for A Single Man which apparently Madonna much admired. It is a powerful and evocative score throughout.

     Madonna was criticised for using Pretty Vacant by The Sex Pistols in one of the scenes featuring the Royal standard thing. Anachronistic? Certainly, but it was also one of the more engaging moments of the film.

Extras

    There are no extras on this DVD although the Blu-ray release comes with extras.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

  

     The Region 1 release of this film has a 25 minute Making of entitled Making W.E. Featuring Madonna. Seriously.

Summary

    W.E. underwhelms on a couple of levels. Writing and directing are a phenomenally difficult double and Madonna has not pulled it off. Still there are some good moments in the film, which is gorgeously costumed, and completists will want to add it to their collection.

    The DVD looks and sounds good but the lack of extras is disappointing.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Saturday, September 29, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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