WHILE Madonna remains a formidable force of nature in the music industry, her repeated attempts to expand her creative empire on to the stage and screen have proved less fruitful.
In front of the camera, she has weathered stinging criticism about her acting, with the notable exception of her Evita Peron which earned a Golden Globe.
Her 2008 directorial debut Filth And Wisdom was eviscerated by the media and now she sets herself up for another fall with her second feature behind the camera, which stars Whitley Bay actress Andrea Riseborough and explores the tumultuous romance of King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson that rocked the British monarchy.
Co-written by Alek Keshishian, the film unfolds initially in 1998 Manhattan where Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish) is trapped in an abusive marriage to husband William (Richard Coyle).
She becomes obsessed with a Sotheby’s auction of precious trinkets from the Windsor estate belonging to Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) and her royal suitor (James D’Arcy) and regularly visits the pre-auction showcase, seeking sanctuary in flashbacks to Wallis’s trials and tribulations.
She imagines Edward’s pleas to his parents and brother Bertie and the paparazzi swarm that engulfed the couple’s every move.
W.E. is peppered with flickers of directorial flair, including a stunning tracking shot of umbrellas in the rain cocooning Cornish from a sudden downpour.
Costumes and art direction are impressive.
But the director’s obvious affinity with Simpson – a strong American woman whose private affairs were splashed across front pages in the British media – clouds her judgement.
The script is a mess and the 1990s sequences feel laboured.
Despite tour de force performances from Riseborough and Cornish, this snapshot of a bygone era fails to capture our hearts.