Saturday, October 18, 2008


Who's going to see this? I'm still debating...but probably will.
The short and snappy title W. reflects the style and focus of this entertaining but superficial biopic. Don't "misunderestimate" us, to paraphrase President Bush: The performances are good (some scarily realistic), and the movie is enjoyable to watch. But as a probing analysis of the 43rd president, it falls short.

Though the comic moments are broadly funny, sometimes bordering on campy, the focus on George W. Bush's evolution into a politician leaves questions unanswered. Perhaps director Oliver Stone didn't intend W. to be a serious biopic. But enough moments of melodrama are juxtaposed with the comedy to make you wonder what tone he did want to strike.

It's not enough to go for the easy laugh by highlighting Bush's mangled syntax and malapropisms. Neither is it sufficient to rely on facile pop psychology to explain his motivations and actions.

One is left wondering how much armchair analysis was derived from research and how much was based on the suppositions and speculation of Stone and screenwriter Stanley Weiser. This is not to say it's not good fun, but how close does it come to accuracy?

W. could have benefited from the perspective that comes with time. It might have been a better film had it come out later, when shading and context could have been added. To assess his true character requires knowledge of Bush's final few months in office and how his decisions spill over onto the next presidency.

Stone paints him as the family's black sheep and tries to inspire empathy, or at least understanding, for the man. The younger Bush is portrayed as hellbent on gaining the approval and love of his father, former president George H.W. Bush.

It's entertaining to identify the recognizable Bush administration movers, shakers and advisers and see how accurately they are portrayed, in speech and demeanor. Josh Brolin gives a strong and credible impersonation of George W. and brings the man to life. He nails the vocal cadence and absorbs his look and mannerisms. Richard Dreyfuss does a great Dick Cheney.
If not for the Dick Cheney...

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