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The School of Flaunt

Back when "Flying Was Fun" Alexandra Smythe and Cate Clarke were Flight Attendants with a Major International Carrier. Prior to Private Jets coming into vogue, Alexandra and Cate traveled in the First Class World, meeting and greeting the top celebrities, politicians who would become Presidents, nouveau riche, and yes the occasional Headline Grabbing Criminal in Handcuffs!

What the two ladies viewed and experienced became fodder for the School of Flaunt, so much money, such bad taste and oh those terrible manners. Something had to be done! Hence, The School of Flaunt Handbook was born. Read More

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Madonna makes us all fall in love with Mrs Simpson

Category: SOF Divas’ Diaries ®  |  Permalink

Published: Thursday, September 1, 2011

Madonna makes us all fall in love with Mrs Simpson

By Baz Bamigboye

W.E. (directed by Madonna)

Madonna's film about the celebrated romance between King Edward VIII and the twice divorced Mrs. Wallis Simpson, and the grave constitutional crisis it caused, is exquisitely done - but it's going prove divisive.

A lot of people will loathe it, simply because it's been made by Madonna.

But if they were to watch it with no knowledge of who directed, they would be pleasantly surprised. They might even find much of it enjoyable, although the odd moment may have them wondering if Madge has committed treason.

Whatever your feelings about Ms Ciccone, it's impossible to refute that her film brings to the screen one of the most compelling love stories in history.

It also happens to be one of the best-dressed movies of the year. The costumes, as you would expect from the original material girl, are eye-popping. In fact, the whole thing looks fantastic - it's designer Viagra.

W.E. (the title stands for the initials of the two lovebirds Wallis and Edward, although he close family and his mistresses called him David) subverts the Royal Family heritage genre by introducing a modern-day parallel, about an unhappily married New Yorker named Wally Winthrop. Madonna uses this second storyline to counterpoint and comment on what happened to the Duchess of Windsor (as Mrs. Simpson became when she finally married the King after he renounced the throne for her).

What can a foreign singer who has spent the past three decades re-inventing herself, and her hair-style, possibly know about our Royal Family's history, and the intricacies of a crisis that remains sensitive seven decades after it captivated the world?

Well, it would seem she knows a lot - although experts on the Abdication are bound to find fault (and they might have something to say about her insistence that the Duke and Duchess were not Nazi sympathizers).

But the director is clearly up to the challenge of defending herself. She studied the crisis for years before deciding to make this movie.

We all know that the affair cost the King his kingdom, and an empire. But Madonna the film-maker, who wrote the screenplay with her old friend Alek Keshishian, raises the question of what it cost Mrs. Simpson.

To be sure, she became the Duchess of Windsor and lived a life of luxury but, as Mrs Simpson (played beautifully by Andrea Riseborough) points out, the King 'used me to escape his prison, only to incarcerate me in my own'.

Poor old Mrs Simpson would have been happier if she could have shaken cocktails for His majesty while remaining married to second husband Ernest Simpson.

She would have been happier, too, if she could have thrown a few of those cocktails over the Queen Mother, who went around calling her a trollop.

But Madonna's astute enough not to push it too far.

Some people have spent two years sharpening their knives for this film, but there have been at least two recent biographies of the Duchess that support much of Madonna's view.

Those knives were also out because rough-cut previews suggested the film was destined to be another of Madge's famous flops. Rumor had it that the two-tier love story was cumbersome.

Actually, the device is a breath of fresh air and I think it will make the movie accessible to younger audiences.

Whether it can do the kind of box office business The King's Speech did is another matter.

However clever, the storyline of Wally and her Russian security boyfriend (played well by Oscar Isaacs) is simply not as gripping as the real royal romance at the heart of the film.

There will also be misgivings over the inclusion of an actor playing Mohamed al Fayed, who gets a scene in the film because Wally wants access to the Duchess's letters, and al Fayed purchased the Duke and Duchess's Paris villa and its contents.

There were early drafts of the script that had the Duchess dancing with her pugs to the Sex Pistol's God Save The Queen while her husband lay in bed under an oxygen mask and other medical apparatus.

Madonna opted instead to have the Duchess do the twist, as Chubby Checker's great hit plays on a gramophone. It's a fun scene - and typical of the best moments in this movie, which occur when Madonna has the courage of her convictions and breaks the rules in the way Baz Luhrmann does. It's a fictionalized story based on facts, after all - not a documentary.

There's a scene where the Prince of Wales and Mrs Simpson are with friends, dozing in comfy chairs.

The Prince, portrayed superbly as a blonde, blue-eyed boy by James D'Arcy, screams that he's going to wake the party up by popping Benzedrine into the champagne.

Mrs Simpson hitches up her designer gown and dances the Charleston to the Sex Pistols. 'We're so pretty, we're so pretty vacant' the song goes, and it's a sizzling moment that encapsulates the life of deluxe hedonism the couple led.

Wally (played by Abbie Cornish) is obsessed with the Duchess's life. She gets to preview the Sotheby's auction of the contents of the Duke and Duchess's Paris villa on the Bois de Boulogne. She walks through rooms of furniture - the George III mahogany library table at which Edward signed his Abdication - past piles of linen, including the crepe de chine bed sheets the duchess insisted on being ironed twice a day.

At one point, Wally holds up a tablecloth emblazoned with the duchess's cipher - two intertwined W's woven like a butterfly. As she studies it, the scene cuts to the duchess overseeing the planning for a dinner party and the same tablecloth is being smoothed over the table. She sprays scent over the placements and instructs her maids to use shorter candles because, she explains, 'the light needs to be just above eye level to be flattering'.

All this interior design porn, the sumptuous sofas, the castles, the Mayfair apartments, the south of France villas is fascinating, of course, but it also symbolizes a life beyond the reach of all but a handful of us.

Madonna has lived such a life herself and knows it is meaningless unless you have someone you love to share it with.

Cate:  Hmmmm.

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