So apparently Madonna directs movies now… and I was pleasantly surprised by her film W.E.. This movie came out in 2011 and examines the relationship between Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII, who famously abdicated the throne of England so he could marry the twice divorced Simpson. According to Rotten Tomatoes this movie is a total flop but I found it charming and fascinating as it examines one of the biggest scandals in British history.
I have always viewed Wallis Simpson as a kind of villain. She is always painted as a gold-digger who tears England apart for her own social standing. W.E. takes a completely different point of view by focusing on Wallis as a woman struggling to find happiness in a world that is not always kind to ambitious women.
Madonna creates a modern parallel in Wally Winthrop, a modern woman who is fascinated by an auction displaying all of Wallis and Edwards belongings. Wally views Wallis’s life as a fairy tale in which she falls in love with a handsome prince who sacrifices everything for their love. Wally is inherently trying to escape from her own miserable marriage by imaging a glamorous love story from a time long past.
The film flows between the past and the present smoothly, as we watch Wallis leave a happy marriage for a doomed one while Wally leave a miserable marriage for a loving relationship with a cute security guard (Oscar Isaac). By the end of the film it becomes clear that Wallis was neither a villain or part of a beautiful love story that ended happily ever after.
Wallis loved Edward but his extreme devotion to her put a strain on their relationship which became impossible to escape. Once Edward abdicated Wallis was tied to him for life. She was now forced to be with him for ever in order to justify the actions he had taken. People change over time and their exile form England paired with the fact that she would never be free of him placed Wallis in a very stiff box that could not be altered. I now have a new found respect for Wallis Simpson and I am curious to learn more about her to see exactly how accurate this film is.