'W.E.' (Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)
(Andrea Riseborough, James D'Arcy, et al / 3-Disc Blu ray+DVD / R / 2012 / The Weinstein Company)
Overview: Madonna's beautifully crafted film tells the story of Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish), a lonely New Yorker, who finds a welcomed escape from her troubled relationship when she begins to explore the ultimate love story: King Edward's VIII's (James D'Arcy) scandalous abdication of the British throne for the woman he loved, American divorcee Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough).
DVD+Blu Ray Verdict: Given the talented actors, what went wrong? Apart from the half told tale problem alluded to above, perhaps the major fault with the film is that it is virtually impossible to see what attracted Edward to Wallis. The film ignores anything to do with the central question - why would a man give up a kingdom for a woman? The film continually tells us that Edward is obsessed with Wallis, and it shows us Edward being obsessed with Wallis, but we are left to wonder why. In an aside, it's suggested that she dressed better than anyone else, and as seemingly silly as this may be, it is the only clue we have.
There's another problem with the film, and this is the continual shifting between real footage (news reels and newspapers) of Edwards and Wallis and reconstructed footage with the actors superimposed. There seems to be no pattern to when this happens, leading me to think that they simply ran out of money to complete the task. As presented, the shift is jarring and is a constant reminder that we are watching a film with actors - a deadly thrust at the heart of any film.
All these problems can be laid at the foot of writer/director Madonna who is best known as a singer, although her second career in film is also notable. She acted in more than 20 films, winning a Golden Globe for "Evita" (1996) although winning a Razzie (worst actress) for "Swept Away" (2002), "Die Another Day" (2002), "The Next Best Thing" (2000), "Four Rooms" (1995), "Body of Evidence" (1993), "Who's That Girl" (1987) and "Shanghai Surprise" (1986).
W.E. is her fourth film as a writer and second film as a director. None of her other efforts received any type of award, although W.E. did get an Oscar nomination for Costume Design.
Of course the film is not totally without merit. It is visually attractive and it's always good to get a peek at actors who otherwise appear on TV and films in other countries. There are also a few moments when the camerawork is exceptional as it visually tracks extreme closeups of facial features while underscoring the theme offered in the scene (something Sergio Leone did very well in a very different context). But these few crumbs will not provide sufficient sustenance for a 2+ hour film. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Blu ray Special Features of:
"The Making of W.E.” featurette