‘W.’ Review

November 12, 2008 at 2:57 pm Leave a comment

What an interesting little film. W. is a dramatization of the life of current U.S. President George W. Bush. What people going into, and out of, this movie need to understand is that it’s a dramatization, not a documentary. Also, those expecting a scathing satire or slam job need to check their expectations at the door. While W. is a flawed film in many ways, it’s a fascinating film, and one that is worth checking out by political science students and film buffs.

One thing the trailers make this film out to be is some kind of screwball comedy, and indeed many critics of the administration wish it were a screwball comedy. Alas, it isn’t, since the movie is structured like a biopic, and plays out much like a melodrama. However, the ‘funny bits’ that are in the movie are centered on Bush himself. He is the comedy relief in his own movie. What director Oliver Stone and writer Stanley Weiser’s take on the life of Dubya is that he was the wrong guy at the wrong time; a well-meaning oaf with aspirations as big as the sky put into a position of power he never should have held. Stone makes no secret of his dislike of the Bush administration, but apparently he’s interested in the making of said administration. Stone doesn’t hate the man, just his politics and he wants to get down to the bottom of how it all came to be.

The heart of the film is Bush, played absolutely brilliantly by Josh Brolin. The American public is already familiar with his mannerisms, and what has become part of the American lexicon, his Bush-isms. Brolin nails all these things perfectly, which also helps shine a light on how much of a character the real Bush is. What Brolin gets right, though, isn’t the speech or the movement of Bush, it’s the fact that he knows he’s playing a real guy that is already quite the character. That’s something that some of the other members of the cast get wrong.

Supporting him is an all-star cast including James Cromwell (George H.W. Bush), Elizabeth Banks (Laura Bush), Richard Dreyfuss (Dick Cheney), Thandie Newton (Condoleeza Rice), Jeffrey Wright (Colin Powell), and Toby Jones (Karl Rove). For the most part, the cast is fine, especially Dreyfuss, who plays Cheney like a true villain, the man that’s really pulling the strings. He hides in the background and says very little, with the exception of a monologue he gives to explain why the U.S. needs to invade Iraq. Thandie Newton deserves special mentions only because she’s the one actor who gets it wrong, very wrong. She looks like Rice, sounds like Rice, and moves like Rice. And that’s the problem; Newton is playing at something, she’s become a caricature of the real person. Not that it’s a bad impersonation, but that’s just what it is, and it’s something best reserved for Saturday Night Live or a parody movie.

The film isn’t without its faults. The pacing seems to go all over the place, and there narrative seems to get lost in all the different aspects of Bush’s life that Stone is trying to cover. Also, there’s nothing here in terms of new information that we didn’t already know. There are plenty of books to read that delve deeper into the inner workings of the administration.

Oliver Stone’s take on Dubya’s life so far is surprisingly a sympathetic one. He shows him as a crazy frat boy who’s only interested in drinking and getting into trouble. Stone also shows us a Bush that really believes in his faith (after taking a while to find it), sticks to his convictions, and is very driven to succeed at anything. The director also places a lot of focus on the relationship (or rivalry) between Bush Jr. and Sr. George W. is living in the shadow of his father, who was not only a U.S. president, but also a vice-president and C.I.A. Director. In the end, it’s an interesting take on an interesting life It’s worth checking out for the curious, and Josh Brolin’s performance is truly Oscar-nominee quality, but the average movie goer, especially one that’s tired of politics, can skip it.

7.5/10 (check the ‘Review Scale’ tab for a score guide)

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