Instead of a film about a love that conquered a king and nearly undid a kingdom, Madonna has come up with a female friendship movie, which would be fine if she weren't busy trying to prove her art-film bona fides.
The film is stylishly shot. And, in weaving the stories of Wally and Wallis, Madonna trusts viewers to move from mood to mood, era to era without overexplanation, the way music-video editing long ago trained us to.
Madonna as a director has no discernible idea of how to locate a tone, or a provocative blend of tones. Her camera makes circles around its subjects every chance it gets in ways that evoke - nothing.
It would be one thing if W.E. were strictly a swooning counterpoint to Speech's scowling dismissal of Wallis and Edward's relationship, an embellishment of an already notorious romance rather than a twice-lathered soap opera.