Material Girls, Then and Now

Remember how awesome The King’s Speech was? Roger and Lionel raved about it — and rightly so — at PJTV’s Poliwood. Back in February on my PJ Express Blog, I half-jokingly quipped that it is sort of an art house version of Star Wars:

  • Obvious good guys? Check.
  • Obvious bad guys? Check.
  • The lead good guy assisted by the older, cynical, yet ultimately heroic sidekick? Check and double-check.
  • A fairy princess? Check-aroonie.
  • The elderly bearded father figure dies mid-picture? Check!
  • The triumphant victory march at the end? Much smaller scale, but yup, it’s there.

The characters even watch footage from Triumph of the Will in the King’s Speech, which inspired the final scene in Star Wars.

And for what it’s worth, the screenwriter got his start on a Lucasfilm production.

Just as George Lucas badly tarnished the reputation of a great movie by later giving us Ewoks and Jar-Jar, King’s Speech producer Harvey Weinstein is set to deliver a quasi-sequel of sorts that sullies the reputation of his earlier film. In The King’s Speech, understandably, the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson were the bad guys. As snappy and influential a dresser as the Duke was, it’s rather difficult to square appeasing the Nazis and abdicating the throne on the eve of World War II.

But one woman, desperate to resume her cinematic career, is ready to give it the ol’ college try, in a new film about Wallis Simpson produced by Weinstein.  Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, Madonna, auteur:

Her new film W.E is finished and will premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September, and arrive in cinemas later this year. But how good it will be?

Madonna hopes that this project will establish her artistic credibility and give her the success in movies which hasn’t come her way since Evita 15 years ago.

The bad news for her, though, is that the buzz from a top secret test screening in New York last week is not entirely positive. I’m told that the film doesn’t make much sense – and looks more like a Chanel perfume advertisement than an £18 million movie ought to.

Harvey Weinstein — who has bought the distribution rights — was observed looking ‘thunderous’ and ‘sour’ as the preview audience marked their scores on approval index cards.

He is in the process of re-editing the film to try to make it more commercially viable, and says that it won’t be ready to show to critics ‘for several months’.

The opinions of the New Yorkers who saw the film will be taken into account as he seeks to give Madonna a rare hit in the movie business.

He is known as Harvey Scissorhands for his love of cutting films to make them more commercial. As he said in an interview: ‘I’m not cutting for fun, I’m cutting for the s*** to work.’

Madonna, now 52, whose control freakery is legendary, must be hating this part of the process. But, it seems, the film needs it.

‘It’s not a complete embarrassment for Madonna, and some of the sequences are spectacular, but some key elements are never explained,’ said my source at the screening last week.

‘It’s all about a woman, Wally, who is obsessed with Wallis Simpson, but we never find out why she cares about her in the first place.

‘The script is really very so-so. It tries to suggest that Wallis Simpson gave up a lot to be with Edward in 1936, particularly her chance to have children, but the idea is never developed. It’s all about the surface and the styling. There’s no real narrative, and no heart.’

Another source, who saw the film at an early screening for potential distributors this spring in Berlin, said more simply that it was ‘just terrible’.

It’s a labour of love for Madonna, who has said that she is obsessed by the subject of the love affair between Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. She began researching the project while she and Guy Ritchie were still married, and he is supposed to have given her some advice in the early stages.

Actually, I was wrong. This could be the rare film where Ewoks and Jar-Jar would help. But on the other hand, even if it bombs, this film could benefit Madonna the environmentalist and Madonna the musician: her band will never need to purchase new guitar picks ever again, once the distribution prints of this movie are cut up for scrap.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member