May 19, 2016
Todd: One of the surprising things I discovered in this series is that Madonna has shockingly highbrow taste in movies.
- Clip of trailer for Filth and Wisdom
Todd (VO): You wouldn't have guessed that from her grotty, low-budget directorial debut, Filth and Wisdom, but that has to be seen as just a trial run, a warmup for something more ambitious.
Todd: But few would've imagined how high she would aim with her follow-up.
- Clip of trailer for W.E.
- VO: Some people called it the greatest love story of the 20th century. The king who gave up his throne for the woman he loved.
Todd (VO): The second movie she directed was W.E., a high-tone, prestige costume drama about the famous true story of Wallis Simpson, the woman for whom King Edward VIII...
Todd: ...famously gave up the throne.
- Picture of Wallis Simpson following by clip from...
Todd (VO): You may remember this historical figure for her brief but pivotal role in the Oscar-winning The King's Speech, where she was portrayed as...
Todd: ...basically a...
Todd (VO): ...Nazi-loving slut who slept her way to the top and manipulated the stupid, lazy ass-wipe King Edward into abandoning his responsibility to his country, and forcing Colin Firth to step up and do the job that Edward should have been doing instead of banging his vulgar, useless harlot of a wife.
Todd: It's not a sympathetic portrayal, is what I'm saying. Perhaps it is unfair to her.
- Clip of Madonna in the film's "making-of" documentary
Todd (VO): Certainly, that is the opinion of Madonna, who has always been fascinated with scandalous women in history. [Trailer for the movie] So, just a year after King's Speech, Madonna directed a second movie, one that would set the record straight about the Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson. Now the truth will be told, and the whole world will understand all she gave up and withstood to be with the man she loved, and why she deserves our love and respect.
Todd: I mean, unless the movie gets immediately destroyed with negative reviews. What are the odds of that happening? To a movie by Madonna, filmmaker of our time. It couldn't possibly happen. There's absolutely no way that this film wouldn't be a roaring success. [Starts desperately laughing] Why, the idea of this movie failing is just laughable. I'm laughing right now thinking about it. [Laughs, cut off by...]
Todd: Okay, well, obviously, the reason this movie failed was that awful title, like...
- Movie begins
Todd (VO): ...how do you even pronounce that? Is it W.E., or just We? W/E?
Todd: What was that even stand for?
- Dinner guest: Who's "WE"?
- Partner: Wallis and Edward, silly.
Todd: Yeah, uh, when couples go by their initials, [picture of card reading "J + E"] they're supposed to use an ampersand.
Todd (VO): "W.E." Looks like it stands for "whatever," which was the response of audiences and critics alike. No one wanted this, which is why a movie that cost $28 million to make only ended up making $0.8 million in return.
Todd: So what went wrong. Okay, first off...
Todd (VO): ...for some ridiculous reason, this is only half a biopic. The other half is about some fictional, bored, rich housewife in modern times. I have no idea why because it is so not interesting, and it slams back and forth between these two stories at random intervals...
Todd: ...with absolutely zero rhyme or reason.
Todd (VO): I guess Madonna thought that we needed to see the story through the eyes of a spoiled rich woman playing groupie with history, as if this movie wasn't already [brief clip of doc] a spoiled rich woman playing groupie with history.
Anyway, her name is Wally. She was named for the Duchess. And like the Duchess, she's in an unhappy marriage. She spends most of her time at an auction house looking at Wallis Simpson's personal effects. She meets a security guard played by a young up-and-comer named Oscar Isaac, and they bond over their mutual, painful experience of having costarred in [picture of both actors in...] Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch.
Todd: 2011 was not a good year for these actors.
Todd (VO): And as for Wally's fascination with Wallis Simpson, on one level, yeah, I do get it. On paper, the story of a woman so enthralling that a king gave up his throne for her is...you know, it's very romantic and inspiring. Unfortunately, nowadays, many, if not most people, associate Edward and Wallis for their public flirtation with [picture of Adolf Hitler shaking Wallis's hand with Edward beside her, all parties smiling] Nazi Germany. How do you deal with that?
Todd: Well, whereas in [brief clip from...] The King's Speech, which treats every nasty thing said about Wallis as 100% true, Madonna treats them as 100% false.
- William Winthrop (Richard Coyle): They went to Germany in the '30s, met with Hitler.
- Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish): Because Edward was desperate to avoid a war.
Todd: Oh, well, that explains everything. [Coughs through...] Bullshit.
- Wally: It might have been naive, but that doesn't make them Nazis.
- William: It's all documented, Wally.
- Wally: Well, it's not, actually. Most of it's based on rumor.
Todd (VO): Uh, yeah...no, the evidence is a little stronger than just rumors. There's a pretty long list of reports of Edward VIII giving every indication that he liked him some Nazis.
Todd: Whatever, every biopic glosses over the uncomfortable parts.
Todd (VO): The story's not about their politics, it's about their romance, and that's what Madonna brings to life so vividly. Except, of course, that she does not because...
Todd: ...surprise, Madonna's a terrible director.
- Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough): ...any good coming of it.
- King Edward VIII (James D'Arcy): Why?
Todd (VO): We're going around a tree! Wheeeeee! Honestly, Madonna's low-budget indie movie was probably a better idea than this was because trying to make an elaborate, showy, artsy movie definitely proves, for the record, how bad she is at filmmaking. This is a movie that's trying to be this respectable, high-brow, period romance, and then wacky shit will happen like Oscar Isaac walking around without pants for no reason. And look at this: a drug sequence taken straight from Requiem for a Dream, which would already be ridiculous before I tell you that, in the scene, what she's injecting herself with...
Todd: ...is pregnancy hormones.
Todd (VO): What's Madonna trying to say here? Is Wally going to downward spiral and become a homeless junkie...
Todd: ...whoring herself out for a hit of fertility treatments?!
Todd (VO): Or here's another one, this is amazing. Okay, they're all watching a movie, the party's dull, so the King decides to liven things up by spiking the drinks with speed. Apparently, what Madonna really wanted to make was an '80s frat comedy.
- Edward VIII: It's time to wake these people up.
Todd (VO): Funnily enough, this actually happened. I know, it sounds made up, but yeah, it was. It was done by a friend of the King, not the King himself, but yeah, it is based on true events.
Todd: However, I doubt in real life it happened like this.
- The partygoers dance as the Sex Pistols' "Pretty Vacant" plays in background
Todd: [shaking a bit, then...] What the blazing goddamn is going on?!
Todd (VO): Yes, I have seen directors use anachronistic modern music in period dramas before, but it's usually to capture a mood of some kind. Blasting a Sex Pistols song about vapid rich people over scenes of vapid rich people makes me think Madonna wants me to hate these characters.
Todd: Which, by the way, I do.
- Wally: Don't you think a woman has more to offer than the way she's dressed?
- Wallis: Of course, but men are such visual creatures, darling.
Todd (VO): My question is...
Todd: ...what do the two stories have in common?
Todd (VO): Like, sometimes, the two stories are overlapping. Wally starts getting visited by the ghost/spirit guide/psychotic hallucination of Wallis, and she gives her advice, and I don't see what they have to do with each other. I mean, yes, Wally and Wallis, they have the same name, they both married rich guys, they both started affairs. But otherwise, the stories are still nowhere near alike. Marrying a king and being in the public eye is a little different from screwing a security guard. For that matter, even within the movie, King Edward is still basically just a vacuous party boy.
- Wallis: Well, I make a mean martini.
- Edward VIII: Let's start there and see how it goes.
Todd (VO): Yes, the way to a man's heart is through his liver. And Oscar Isaac, meanwhile, is this caring, sensitive widower who plays classical music.
- Evgeni (Oscar Isaac) plays a classical song
Todd (VO): [singing] Get down, Saturday night.
Basically, Wally and Wallis only really have one thing in common. Madonna films their marital problems in the most...
Todd (VO): ...hilariously tasteless way possible.
- Ernest: [off-screen] Where's my dinner?!
- I want my food now.
- Wallis: I waited six hours for you. [Ernest backhands a naked Wallis to the floor, whose nudity by a black block] ...no, not the baby! [He kicks her]
Todd stifles a laugh
Todd: I shouldn't be laughing at this.
- Wally: Is it me?
- William: I just wish we could have sex without the constant pressure of your need to get pregnant.
- Wally: I never said anything about that.
- William: It's always there.
Todd (VO): Jesus Christ, Madonna, why don't you just have him wear horns and fangs?
- Auctioneer (David Redden): Next lot, #243, a collection of gloves. Kid gloves, just kidding. [Wally raises her number] $10,000.
- William: You spent over $11,000 at Sotheby's?
Todd (VO): Uh, he kinda has a point!
- William slaps Wally
- Wally: People seem to only focus on what he gave up for her, but what about what she gave up?
Todd: If there is one reason why I'd want to see this movie made...
Todd (VO): ...it's because of Madonna's thesis that Wallis suffered a lot of bullshit to be with her man.
Todd: Just like Eva Perón, played by Madonna herself.
- Clip from Evita
- Eva: Did you hear that?
- They called me a whore.
- They actually called me a whore.
Todd: Yeah, Madonna. Show us all the sexist crap Wallis had to deal with.
- Wallis walks down the street, passing a newsstand with papers reporting "King Edward's Scandalous Affair," with Roberto Alagna's "Salade de Fruits" playing in the background
Why is this scene so incompetent?!
Todd (VO): Why is this the soundtrack? You're a world famous musician, Madonna! How are you this incapable of capturing the tone of a scene with music?! I could come up with a better soundtrack for this scene at random!
Todd: You know how, in The King's Speech...
- Clip from same
Todd (VO): ...Wallis is this total ho-bag, but England's beloved Queen Mum is just awesome and wonderful?
- Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter): I intend to be a very good queen to a very great king.
Todd (VO): Well, we're doing Wallis's story now, so guess what.
Todd: Now the Queen Mum is a complete bitch!
Todd (VO): Yeah, she's just this nasty, back-biting snob who...what?! What?! Margaery?! Give Madonna this, at least she was good at spotting hot, rising talent.
- Elizabeth (Natalie Dormer): And where's your husband these days, Mrs. Simpson?
Todd (VO): And unlike in that other movie, where we only heard about how horrible Wallis was, in W.E., we straight up see the Queen being an ugly, jealous harpy. In fact, in this movie, she's the reason why Edward and Wallis never returned to England.
- Elizabeth: You know what he's calling about, and you know you'll give in if you speak to him.
- Bertie (Laurence Fox): He's my...brother.
- Elizabeth: The last thing you need is your brother the Nazi dashing 'round England with that trollop of a wife.
Todd (VO): Yes, the King's brave leadership helped England keep calm and carry on during the blitz, but he couldn't get his wife to let him see his own brother. Yeah, sure, I totally buy that.
But despite their exile, we do see them late in life, the King ill and presumably on his deathbed, but the two of them still so very much in love in their old age.
- Wallis turns on the record player to play Chubby Checker's "The Twist," which she dances to accordingly.
Todd: I give up.
Todd (VO): I agree, Edward. Time to slip off that oxygen mask once and for all rather than watch any more of this.
Todd: And that was the last movie Madonna ever made.
Todd (VO): It did get an Oscar nomination for Best Costumes, 'cause I guess making Wallis Simpson look like Maleficent is worth applauding. Other than that, though, the movie tanked, so while Madonna may yet have more movies in her, it wouldn't surprise me if her film career were over and done with. I will, of course, revive this series if she makes any more, but it doesn't seem likely.
Todd: That seems like a poor send-off for Cinemadonna. Really, I want to end this series on a proper note. And so join me, won't you, as we see off Madonna's film career with one final hurrah.
- Clip of trailer
- Madonna: I have so many tales to tell.
- This is the end or the beginning, depending on how you look at it.
Closing tag song: Abel Korzeniowski - "Dance for Me Wallis"
"W.E." is owned by Semtex Films
This video is owned by me
THANK YOU TO THE LOYAL PATRONS