They split in 2008, but apparently
Madonna's second feature as director, "W.E.," turns the monarchy love fest "The King's Speech" on its side, focusing on the much-maligned Baltimore socialite
Fatally, the script by Madonna and her "Truth or Dare" collaborator Alek Keshishian establishes a parallel story set in late 1990s
Andrea Riseborough portrays the Duchess, aka Wallis. Like Cornish's character, she has been made up and photographed to resemble 1988-era Madonna as closely as possible. To be sure, this is a seriously intentioned picture, not a vanity project. It is also seriously wrongheaded. "W.E." trips all over its own ungainly storyline, and placing Wallis' fairy tale inside the story of another, lesser, fictional unhappy princess diary does neither narrative track a favor. Madonna romanticizes the trappings and finery of royalty something fierce. The result is that when the suffocating cost of all that crystal and Champagne and callousness is revealed, it comes off as hypocritical in the extreme. Riseborough is perfectly capable of bringing Wallis to dramatic life, but she's working alone. And the director's sporadic attempts at deliberate anachronism (at one point, a drunken party is scored to "Pretty Vacant" by the
Madonna has acknowledged working through lots of tangled feelings about marrying into British showbiz royalty (kind of) when she made "W.E." For decades, the world's most durable self-recycling celebrity has learned plenty about the grind and the fickleness of the spotlight. But Madonna as a director has no discernible idea of how to locate a tone, or a provocative blend of tones. Her camera makes circles around its subjects every chance it gets in ways that evoke — nothing. What a bittersweet waltz it all is! Aren't these people awful? Aren't they fabulous? Really they're neither in "W.E.," which in its shrillness ends up, quite inadvertently, advocating the notion of suffering in silence.
'W.E.' -- 1 1/2 stars
MPAA rating: R (for some domestic violence, nudity and language)
Running time: 1:58