Madonna spent two years researching and writing this film. She immersed herself in the lives of the Duke and Duchess, wallpapering an empty room in her house with their photographs and pictures from auction catalogs. Madonna commented, “I was trying to understand the nature of their love story and trying to figure out for myself if there is such a thing as perfect love.”
But Madonna was not interested in producing another historical movie. Instead, she created a modern-day story using the fictional character, Wally Winthrop, to present a different point of view. Abbie Cornish plays the part of an emotionally fragile woman who is obsessed with the life of Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough). While dealing with her husband’s betrayal and struggle to have a child, Wally daydreams about Wallis’ life. Through Wally, we see another side of the Duchess. She appears more vulnerable and conflicted as the king makes that irrevocable decision that changed the course of history. While the king gave up his throne for the woman he loved, Wallis Simpson gave up her freedom to live a life of her own choosing and became the “most despised woman in the world.”
I could feel Madonna’s presence in the lives of both women, especially in the scenes where Wallis and Wally meet. I took note of one telling comment made by Wallis (via Madonna), “They can’t hide you unless you let them.” Truthfully, I would like to have seen more of these encounters and fewer historical clips. Also, I felt that too much of the film centered on Wally’s life and her budding relationship with the Russian immigrant played by Oscar Isaac.
If you love history and/or Madonna, go see the film.