W./E. delivers an exceptionally awful cinematic experience from start to finish. As a writer and director, Madonna exhibits no ability or skill in establishing either characters or a scene. W./E. is a series of rapidly changing scenes consisting of multiple shots, angles, and unnecessary cuts clumsily strung together. This may suit amphetamine addicts with severe ADHD, but for everyone else, it makes for unbearable and even infuriating viewing. The “technique” reeks of a director without the faintest idea as to how to properly frame a scene. The frantic swapping between 1998 and Wallis’ story is just as unfocused and relies so heavily on title text explaining when and where each scene is set that it borders parody. The tone is uneven throughout (behold the melodramatic IVF injection scenes!), while the overly grandiose score is typically incongruent with what is presented onscreen. How Madonna, of all people, can be so clueless as to how to utilise music in a film is anyone’s guess. The coup de grace comes when Wallis gets down to the Sex Pistol’s “Pretty Vacant”. Absurd does not even begin to do the decision-making process on display in W./E. justice.
This applies to the casting as well. Cornish and fellow Sucker Punch refugee Isaac exhibit no chemistry in their all-too-forced “relationship” as Isaac attempts to put on, what can only be assumed to be, a Russian accent. Riseborough is decent enough as the American Simpson, but is done no favours by being in this abomination in the first place, let alone the ridiculous scene depicting an elderly Wallis, with poorly designed make-up and remarkably youthful legs, dancing away for Edward in his final days. If only a film could be redeemed by the sheer amount of smoking onscreen, then W./E. could quite possibly become an Oscar contender. It’s almost enough to bring on coughing fits throughout the cinema.
Simply stated, W./E. is a complete mess that succeeds only in managing to disengage any interest almost immediately. Madonna displays a thorough lack of talent or promise over the course of this two-hour flop and it becomes clear, quite quickly, that no one had the courage to tell her when something (everything) wasn’t working. While still in 2012’s infancy, the bar has been set for worst film of the year and only a fool would bet against W./E. retaining that title. If Madonna must express herself, she should stick to doing so in song.