W.E. is a splendid film that is part biopic and part soap opera. The tandem story lines revolve around the true drama of Edward VIII of England and his scandalous affair with twice divorced American, Wallis Simpson, and the fictional account of Wally Winthrop (named after Mrs. Simpson) a well-to-do socialite trapped in a loveless and abusive marriage. The two themes merge as Wally, who is obsessed with all things pertaining to the Duke and Duchess, is drawn to an auction at Sotheby’s where the sumptuous artifacts of the Windsor estate are on display. She fingers the elegantly monogrammed linens, eyes the sparkling dinnerware and admires the dazzling jewelry. She is so taken with their love story, and consequently with anything that belonged to them, because she desperately seeks to know what it must be like to be loved so passionately. Because she is so lonely and vulnerable it’s no surprise that Wally (Abbie Cornish) opens herself to the flirtations of a Sotheby’s security guard. We can all guess where that is going.
But the tale of Wally and her paramour (Oscar Isaac) pales in comparison to the compelling romance of Edward and Wallis. It is said Edward was not only dominated by Wallis, but was possessed by her. So enthralled was he with Mrs. Simpson that he renounced the throne, and all that went with it, in favor of “the woman I love.”
W. E. gives us a sweeping view of the privileged lives of Wallis and Edward. The costumes, the sets, the venues of England in the 1930s, and the attention to detail are so delicious that we’re embraced by a lifestyle that is at once stylish and chic. It’s a world where no hair is ever out of place, and one wouldn’t think of reaching for the inappropriate utensil at a dinner party. Wallis (Andrea Riseborough) is luminous in her pale skin and rouged lips, set off by her dark tresses. But we see her as the French might see her, as a jolie laide*, because it is her charisma, and not her beauty that captures the heart of the would-be king.
History views the affair with a jaundiced eye, since Edward lost everything by abdicating the throne, and making the unpopular choice to marry a foreigner. In a rare turnabout this film raises the question of what Wallis was denied because of her choice to accept his proposal. In a letter, she tells us that she lost her privacy, her reputation and her esteem because she was so reviled once she became the Duchess.
If you were a fan of The King’s Speech, the Weinstein brothers are hoping you’ll also be captivated by W. (Wallis) E. (Edward). This film has a similar ambiance, a must for historical romance enthusiasts and those who are enamored with the royal family.
Catch a glimpse at the film’s trailer below and see if we have a copy of the film available.
*A woman who is attractive though not conventionally pretty.
Note: This film was co-written and directed by Madonna.