American Girls Are Sneaky Bitches

W./E. (2012)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ (3/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ ★ (3/5)
Boyfriend friendly: You’ll enjoy it more without him looking up basketball scores on his iPhone.

I’ve always been intrigued by the love story of Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII. I first heard about them in a 6th grade World History class, where I was still clinging to the whole “Princess Dream”. (To my credit, this was wayyy before Prince William started to go bald and the same year that The Princess Diaries came out – so not my fault). I was instantly fascinated by Wallis. She was just an average, American woman who captured the heart of a Prince so heavily that he abdicated the throne and lived in exile just so he could marry her. Sheesh! How dreamy is THAT? And hey – if she could do it, then surely that meant that I could marry a Prince one day too… or at least Aaron Carter.

If you didn’t learn about Wallis & Edward in school, then you probably recognize them as minor, rather unlikable, characters in The Weinstein Company’s Academy Award winning film, The King’s Speech, about Prince Edward’s younger brother who took the throne following Edward’s abdication. But there are two sides to every story, so this year the Weinstein bros decided to show another perspective. And who better to direct a film about a highly scandalous American woman with British infatuations than Madonna?

Now, our Madge has never been one to take the easy route. So, if you think tackling the “greatest romance of the century” was enough for her, you’re mistaken. W./E. instead weaves together two women: Wallis Simpson, who had to find a Prince before she could find love, and Wally Winthrop, who seemingly found the Prince but is missing the love story. Wally’s story is set in 1998 Manhattan, where she feeds her obsession with her namesake during a Sotheby’s auction of Wallis and Edward’s estate. The film plays a bit of show and tell: Wally examines Wallis’ possessions, like her Cartier diamond bracelet, and envisions what happened – where Edward gave it to Wallis, how she reacted. Eventually Wally’s daydreaming leads to actual conversations with Wallis’ spirit, who explains that Edward wasn’t the only one who had to make sacrifices for love. Wallis, too, had to say goodbye to things dear to her, such as her privacy and acceptance.

Andrea Riseborough is breathtaking as Wallis Simpson, and it is easy to understand how Prince Edward (or David, as he is known by close friends) becomes so smitten with her. Between her witty banter, piercing blue eyes, swinging hips, and “I-couldn’t-careless-that-you’re-a-Prince” façade… I couldn’t help but feel seduced by her as well. History books portray her as the villain: a gold-digging, twice divorcée who selfishly changed the course of British history. But in W./E., Wallis is the victim. At one point, she even tries to end the romance to save the royal family humiliation. But Edward refuses to go forward as King without her. After all, what’s a King without the woman he loves by his side?

Everything about the Wallis & Edward story is so perfect – from the beautiful camera movements to the majestic set design – that I resented the other half of the movie for being there. Abbie Cornish is a phenomenal actress, but here, as a battered trophy wife, she was underwhelming. Her one-dimensional Wally Winthrop doesn’t stand a fighting chance against the multidimensional Wallis Simpson. Even if looking at the handsome Oscar Isaac as Evgeni, a Sotheby’s security guard who flirts with Wally, wasn’t exactly punishment, this part of the movie was certainly less strong. Perhaps even unnecessary.

Despite that, I truly enjoyed W./E. and I feel it’s worth seeing in theaters if you enjoy a good romance. Yes, it’s getting panned by critics but that’s exactly the reason I started this website. The film absolutely has its flaws, but there is something beautiful about an imperfect film about imperfect people. I also believe if Madonna’s name wasn’t attached, critics may have been a bit more sympathetic towards it. If I learned anything from W./E., it’s that you can’t help who you fall in love with, and I couldn’t help falling for this film.