Whether you buy that Wallis Warfield Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) and Edward VIII of England (James D'Arcy) had the "romance of the century" or not, their story is certainly more interesting and involving than the framing story director Madonna uses in W./E.. Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish), a bored and neglected wife of a successful New York psychiatrist (Richard Coyle), idolizes Wallis to the point of obsession. She even imagines herself having conversations with her namesake. The film cuts back and forth between the two women's lives, drawing parallels — especially concentrating on their unhappiness with abusive husbands or failed attempts at pregnancy.
W./E. is directed by Madonna and co-written by Madonna and Alek Keshishian, who directed Madonna in music videos "This Used To Be My Playground," and "I'll Remember" as well as her documentary Madonna - Truth or Dare.
[Wallis and Edward vacation in the south of France]
King Edward VIII met Wallis Simpson in the early 1930s. They were soon inseperable, and the King appeared frequently with her in public, although she was still married at the time to her second husband, Ernest Aldrich Simpson. The King was determined to marry her, and when Wallis filed for divorce it caused a nationwide crisis. Edward decided to abdicate the British throne in 1936, and the two retired to France and became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
Madonna tries to whitewash (or have her fangirl heroine Wally) shrug off rumors of Wallis's and Edward's Nazi sympathies. If the pair were not totally sympathetic to Hitler's cause, they certainly weren't opposed to visiting Germany or meeting with Hitler.
[Wally gets to go backstage at Sotheby's]
Like the similarly constructed Julie and Julia, the film could have done without the contemporary storyline and just concentrated on Wallis. It also doesn't help that Madonna has made Wally dour, dark, and drippy. She may have a rotter for a husband, but he is such a cartoon villain that the audience isn't made to care. Her growing flirtation with a security guard (Oscar Isaac) at a Sotheby's exhibit of the Duke and Duchess's personal effects is also predictable and as lacking of energy as Wally, barring one nice scene where he gives her a private tour of the exhibit and a dance. But one scene isn't enough to wonder why, with all the research into Wallis that Madonna reportedly did, she felt compelled to tack on Wally's story.