Whatever personal bias you may have, give Madonna her proper due, ambition has taken the 53-year-old to heights few on this planet have ever ascended to - care to name another person who's had 228 million eyeballs on them at one time? The Material Girl has never been one to shy away from stretching her artistic limits, from compiling a sex book swathed in silver cellophane to playing Argentina's former First Lady Eva Peron on the silver screen - Madge isn't solely about her music. And now with her second directorial effort, 'W.E.', Madonna has proven at least one thing, she gleaned a thing or two about over-directing from her former hubby but thankfully sans obnoxiously hyper-kinetic blow-by-blow shots of what's moments from going down.
Having a hand in all aspects of production, Madonna (with assistance from Alek Keshishian) penned this overwrought tale of the love affair between King Edward VIII (journeyman James D'Arcy) and Wallis Simpson (relative newcomer Andrea Riseborough). But that's just the beginning for Ms. Ciccone, she cross pollinates with a 1998 narrative (don't ask) involving a woman named Wally (a respectable Abby Cornish) and her lout of a husband William (Richard Coyle). Oh yes, have I mentioned that Wally feels a kindred connection to Wallis and visits Sotheby's daily for their soon-to-be-had auction of the mementos of the former royal couple? How about we toss in a wooing of Wally by an auction house security guard (Oscar Isaac of 'Drive') and you have all the necessary ingredients for a script in a state of disarray. If linear is to your liking, obtuse is in the offering.
'W.E.' may be a mess but it's a mesmerizing one. Madonna clearly has talent for showing off shiny things, what appears on-screen is oft dizzyingly hypnotic - never dull to look at. Think of it as a piece of art that evokes little emotional resonance but offers dazzle in spades. Heck, any film that can randomly feature a dancing montage involving a Sex Pistols song can't be bashable in wholesale fashion. Kudos to Madonna for ultimately producing a celluloid smorgasbord that contains the caloric content of a couple of Snackwell's cookies.