That "W.E.," Madonna's second film as a director, is more interesting to look at than think about says a lot about her as an artist.
Her style-over-substance approach has led her to musical fame, fortune and status as a sort of elder stateswoman of the bad-girl set. Flashy costumes and precision dance moves can cover up a lot of shortcomings.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said for a film. In "W.E.," Madonna, who also co-wrote the script, tells intertwined stories of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson alongside that of Wally and William Winthrop, a fictional couple whose marriage is crumbling in 1998.
Edward, of course, was the king of England who gave up the throne for the twice-divorced American Simpson. Madonna uses the film to tell the story from Simpson's side; several times characters note that everyone talks about what Edward gave up, but what about Simpson?
I've always supposed that the emphasis was on Edward because he was, you know, the king of England. Whatever the case, Andrea Riseborough, who plays Simpson, is the best thing about the movie. There's a dash of old-school Hollywood attitude in her portrayal, a bit of Rosalind Russell, a hint of Myrna Loy.
The production is nice looking, and telling the Edward-and-Wallis story from her side is an interesting idea, but it's one that Madonna simply can't pull off. The Super Bowl halftime show proved that the Material Girl still has pop-culture relevance. She's better off sticking with that.