October 20, 2008

Movie Review: W.

w4_largeI hate politics. I hate political discussions. I do not follow politics. I am not a fan of George W. Bush. I do not trust politicians in general. I do not think any candidate for these positions of power, including Senate and local governments, is the ideal candidate for the job, I do not believe anyone truly is. I feel that when we vote, we merely attempt to select the lesser of two evils. We play our gut feeling, no matter which way you go, you are bound to regret it down the line.

With all of that baggage, I went to see W. and hoped for the best. With Oliver Stone I do not think anyone can be positive of what to expect. Will it be the conspiracy theorist of JFK? Perhaps the historical epic of Alexander (how many cuts of that are there now?)? Perhaps the sentimentalist of World Trade Center? Maybe even the absurdist commentator of Natural Born Killers? I mean, seriously, considering the subject and Hollywood's general distaste for the current political climate, I seriously expected some sort of hatchet job, or at least more comedy. Based on the trailers, I definitely expected it to be funnier than it turned out to be, and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

w-movie-13This is definitely an intriguing film, and it certainly brought out a different sort of crowd. If nothing else, we will no longer be getting those random snickers, laughs, and unwanted comments from those cinema goers who feel the need to make it a point that they disapprove of the current President. I never could stand those unwarranted needs to draw attention with their snorts. We get it, a lot of people don't want to let others think they approve of him, heaven forbid that someone think you approve by not saying anything.

Anyway, this nearly sold out screening was filled with people whose goal seemed to be to see the sitting President get skewered by a controversial filmmaker. I could tell by the reactions to the funny moments, where it was easy to laugh at him. I could also tell by the oddly hushed response when the credits began to roll.

The film itself? It felt oddly fair and balanced, like FOX News (only not). To be sure, I am positive that this is the not nearly the whole truth. I believe their is a healthy dose of reality, but like any biopic the broad strokes have been emphasized over the small details and some events enhanced for dramatic (or comedic) w-movie-3effect. One other thing, has there ever been a film made about a sitting President before? I know films have had "cameos" of the President (like Harold and Kumar Escape Guantanamo Bay), but I cannot recall ever seeing one covering the man's life before.

W. is an interesting work from an interesting director. Whether you like him or not, his movies always elicit a response. As for the man himself, it would seem safe to assume that Oliver Stone did not intend to make a fair and balanced film. I find it much more believable to think that he entered into this with intentions of bringing George W. Bush down, or at the very least offer this as a final parting gift during the final months of his tenure. What happened is that as he and screenwriter Stanley Weiser did their due diligence in researching their subject, they found something underneath, something that, dare I say, they respected? Whatever the case, the final product is as interesting as it is uninvolving.

The movie follows George W. from his college days pledging his father's fraternity, to his days jumping from job to job before becoming owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, to his decision to run for public office, and ultimately the presidency. Interspersed throughout are clips of a more recent time, discussing the invasion of Iraq following Afghanistan.

w-movie-1What becomes clear over the course of the film is that George W. is not the brightest of the Bush clan, but I guess we already knew that. What I found interesting were his feelings towards Jeb, who actual presence in the film is minimal, but whose influence is felt throughout. A picture is painted of George always being in the shadow of his brother, not living up to his intelligence or his ambition. George is presented as a man who seems to want to try and do his father proud, but it is always held back by dong something stupid. It does make that picture considerably more interesting than a standard hatchet job.

So what makes W. interesting yet strangely hollow? This is the million dollar question and I cannot put my finger on it. The film was definitely interesting and most of the performances were fine, but there were stretches of the film that dragged, taxing my attention. In the end, it was good at not being what I expected and giving a different image of an unpopular figure, while also dragging it out to the point that I nearly stopped caring.

Josh Brolin does a fantastic job of channeling George W. Bush. He has the expressions, the voice, the mannerisms, he does it all well. Brolin is surrounded with a cast filled with good performances. Toby Jones as Karl Rove was very good, as was Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney. I also like Elizabeth Banks as Laura Bush. Now I could go on down the cast list but I won't, just let it be known that all were fine. Although, there was one performance that was very comical and nearly took me out, that is Thandie Newton as Condoleezza Rice. Man, does she really talk like that? I know her speech patterns are a little off, but this is ridiculous. I found it humorous and distracting.

Bottomline. In the end this is a movie that is worth seeing, although it may not live up to your expectations. Not as great or as funny as expected, but you cannot say that Oliver Stone doesn't deliver.

Mildly Recommended.


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