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Abbie Cornish, Andrea Riseborough, James D'Arcy, Oscar Isaac, Richard Coyle, David Harbour, James Fox
Writing Credits:
Madonna, Alek Keshishian

Madonna's Academy Award® nominated film (2011 Best Achievement in Costume Design, Arianne Phillips) delivers an elegantly stylish and beautifully dramatic look into the lives of two fragile yet passionate women intertwined across the decades. In 1998, New Yorker Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish) becomes enamored with what is believed to be the greatest romance of the 20th century - King Edward VIII's (James D'Arcy) surrender of the crown for the woman he loved, the chic and charismatic American, Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough). Through a series of secret letters, Wally discovers the lifetime of romance Edward and Wallis shared together.

Box Office:
$15 million.
Opening Weekend
$47.074 thousand on 4 screens.
Domestic Gross
$582.075 thousand.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 119 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 5/1/2012

• “The Making of WE” Featurette
• Previews
• DVD Copy
• Digital Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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W.E. [Blu-Ray] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 21, 2012)

Since the start of her musical career, Madonna attempted to develop a career as a successful film actor. However, these efforts have resulted in far more punchlines than plaudits. For every relative success like Desperately Seeking Susan or Evita we found a slew of clunkers.

It appears as though Madonna may finally have abandoned her dreams of film stardom; she’s not acted on the big screen since 2002’s disastrous Swept Away. However, this doesn’t mean she wants nothing to do with the movies- she’s just taken a different approach, as we see with WE, her second effort as writer/director.

WE tells dual – but intersecting - tales. In 1998, we meet Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish), the wife of William (Richard Coyle), a doctor who devotes his time to work and philanthropy but largely ignores his spouse. Wally sees an auction for the collection of Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) - the woman for whom England’s King Edward (James D’Arcy) abdicated the throne - and goes to visit it.

This launches her into an interest in the story of Wallis and Edward, which we also see on its own. We follow the dual tales, as we watch Wally’s marriage problems in the late 20th century – and subsequent affair - while we also see how Wallis and Edward came to each other.

That’s an ambitious framework, but not an especially useful one, mainly because we rarely give two hoots about Wally and William. That narrative takes a banal path that never threatens to become anything interesting. Wally’s the dutiful wife – until pushed too far - while William’s the cheating cad. Game, set, match. If anything occurs that allows those moments to break away from the mold, I don’t see it. Especially when Wally has her own affair, this side of things feels like standard romance novel mush.

Not that matters improve significantly when the film focuses on Wallis and Edward, but at least we have a historical reason to invest in that tale. The Wally segments feel like they exist solely to give the film a semi-clever twist, but they just come across like a weird, illogical choice that makes WE more Julie & Julia than I’d like.

The main difference is that while that latter film’s Julie segments were a drag, at least the Julia sections entertained. In WE, neither the Wally nor the Wallis pieces fare especially well. Yeah, the Wallis material works better – quite a lot better, in fact – but it still doesn’t do much to satisfy.

I respect and understand the desire to make WE something different and not just a standard “Chronological Point A to Chronological Point B” biopic. However, if you opt to veer away from that formula, you need a strong reason to do so; otherwise, your choices seem like gratuitous experimentation.

Which is what happens in WE. I can’t figure out any logical need for the Wally story; it’s such standard drama fare that it lacks any compelling reason to exist, especially when partnered with one of the best-known romances in modern history. Did Madonna hope that the Wally/Wallis connection would give the tale extra currency for modern times?

I don’t know, but I do feel that the dual stories notion deflates the Wallis segments more than anything else. Wally dominates the movie, so the Wallis sections feel almost gratuitous. None of the characters get the breathing room to develop, so we end up with scant moments to understand the Wallis/Edward relationship and its significance.

It doesn’t help that Madonna packs the movie with pointless stylistic choices. We get odd, random close-ups, strange out of focus shots, and other oddities. Why? I have no idea. They attempt to convey a mood, I guess, but they don’t succeed. They simply seem like visual quirks that exist for their own sake.

In truth, I can’t say anything about WE that I view as particularly bad; even with these complaints, it remains a mildly watchable movie. It’s just not one that ever threatens to go anywhere. It meanders through its two narratives and fails to explore either in a compelling way.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus D+

WE appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Though not stellar, the transfer was usually good.

Some minor issues with sharpness arose. At times, wide shots looked a bit on the soft side and lacked expected delineation. However, those instances were infrequent, so the majority of the movie appeared accurate and concise. I noticed no signs of jaggies or edge enhancement, and shimmering was absent. The film lacked print flaws and seemed clean.

Many period pieces opt for subdued palettes, and that was definitely true here. The colors of WE’s 1930s scenes tended toward chilly tones, though occasionally we saw more dynamic hues, such as at dinner parties. The 1998 footage opted toward more of an amber feel. Both appeared fine within the fulm’s stylistic choices. Blacks seemed dark and right, and shadows demonstrated good clarity. Though this wasn’t a great transfer, it was strong enough for a “B”.

A romantic drama wouldn’t seem to be a candidate for a dynamic soundtrack, and the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio of WE fell into expected realms. This was a chatty flick, and it offered few instances during which it could better come to life. Music showed nice stereo presence, but the rest of the film tended toward general atmosphere. These segments gave us a decent sense of place but rarely much more.

Audio quality satisfied. Music was full and rich, while effects showed nice clarity and accuracy. Speech – obviously an important factor here – appeared concise and crisp. Nothing here soared, but it all seemed positive.

Only one extra pops up here: a featurette called The Making of WE. It goes for 22 minutes, 36 seconds and offers notes from director Madonna, cinematographer Hagen Bogdanski, costume designer Arianne Phillips, choreographer Stephanie Ross, and actors Richard Coyle, James D’Arcy, Abbie Cornish, Andrea Riseborough, Natalie Dormer, Stephen Jones, Laurence Fox, James Fox, and Oscar Isaac. “Making” looks at Madonna’s interest in the Wallis/King Edward story and its development into this movie, narrative/character subjects, cast and performances, costume/production design, sets and locations, camerawork and film stocks, and Madonna’s impact as director. This is pretty standard promotional material, so don’t expect much from it. We find a smattering of decent details but not much more.

The disc opens with ads for Coriolanus, My Week with Marilyn and The Iron Lady. No trailer for WE appears here.

A second disc offers a DVD Copy and a third provides a digital copy of WE. If you want to own WE but aren’t yet Blu-ray capable, it’s a good bonus. Note that the DVD is a standard retail copy of the film, not a neutered version.

As a long-time Madonna fan, I root for her in all endeavors, but her attempt to become a movie director doesn’t go anywhere in WE. While it’s a reasonably professional – if overly-stylized – effort, it presents a slow-moving dual storyline that never threatens to involve the viewer. The Blu-ray provides generally good picture and audio but lacks substantial supplements. Even for folks with an interest in the subject matter, I can’t find much reason to recommend this forgettable drama.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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