Even if you didn't know "W.E." was directed and co-written by Madonna, the movie's glossy attention to fashion, its obsession with fame and royalty, and its music-video montages would give you a hint.
Ostensibly, Madonna aims to examine the "greatest romance of the 20th century," of Britain's King Edward VIII (James D'Arcy) and the twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough), and the toll that public hatred took on Wallis' psyche after Edward abdicated. But the movie's real focus is in 1998 Manhattan, as rich-but-sad Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish) worries her husband, philanthropic doctor William (Richard Coyle), is cheating on her. Wally is obsessed with Wallis, spending full days at a pre-auction display of the Duchess of Windsor's memorabilia at Sotheby's and attracting the notice of a handsome security guard (Oscar Isaac).
Tonally and emotionally all over the map, Madonna (co-writing with Alex Keshishian, who directed her infamous "Truth or Dare" documentary) wants to celebrate Wallis' and Edward's martini-shaking high living while also wallowing in her hidden pain.
The film's sole highlight is Riseborough's spot-on portrayal of the brittle Wallis, whom she depicts not as a scheming seductress but as a sharp cookie seduced by Edward's glamorous royal life.
Opens Friday, March 30, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas; rated R for some domestic violence, nudity and language; 119 minutes. For more movie reviews, visit nowsaltlake.com/movies.