Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Review: W. (2008)

My awesome sister wrote this, and she's better at writing reviews than I am: (And I agree %100 with what she says)

Stated simply, it’s hard to figure out what this movie is. Is it a comedic slam of George W. Bush, or is it a sincere chronicle of his life ? I’ll tell you, after 2 hours, I’m still not sure.

Let me break it down for you. The way Oliver Stone made this movie evokes two very different interpretations: He either sought to paint W. as a divine tragedy (cue scenes with soft piano over hard times in Bush‘s life), or a great mockery, bringing some classic “Bushisms” back into the picture. But one can never really be sure what gets accomplished here.

On one hand, the scenes of Bush’s young life are done quite well. Josh Brolin steps into the Commander in Chief’s shoes with ease. Brolin’s portrayal of the early, rowdy, alcoholic Bush, who holds a slew of odd jobs, courts trashy women, and is heading down the "wasting your life" type of path, are ironically serious, boasting the possibility that if you just polish this up enough, this might have Oscar written all over it.

On the other hand, scenes of the later years, showing Bush in office, make him look, for lack of a better word: Stupid. There’s no other way to describe the movie at these points. The script is really hammed up with silly “Bushisms,” and they make him seem trivial, and completely overpowered by Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss).

But what does W. ultimately become? A hodge podge of Bush here in ‘77, and then Bush there in ‘02, and then in ’86, and in ’04, and ’02 all over again. Back and forth, and back and forth, and you get the picture. There are so many good ideas here that are undeveloped, and are completely not cohesive, that you kind of wonder why not just put this one back in the oven? And maybe just make the whole thing in chronological order. Clearly this could be a great movie, but not now.

Which brings up another question: Why now? Why produce this movie at the very end of Bush’s presidency? Is it to remind people that he’s still president? Could be. I for one, keep forgetting that he exists amidst this heated political season. Or could it be that Oliver Stone just really wanted to make a movie about Bush, and refused to wait? Or maybe, we’re supposed to enjoy it more because it’s so recent. Whatever the reason was, this is just does not seem like the time.

At the end of the day, Josh Brolin is W.’s only ace. The rest of the movie is so-so. Elizabeth Banks as Laura Bush meets expectations, and James Cromwell and Ellen Burstyn as Mama and Papa Bush, are pretty good. However, W. may have relied too much on big names to fill small roles: Thandie Newton as Condoleezza Rice, Ioan Gruffudd as Tony Blair, Noah Wyle as Don Evans, and I’m still not really sure who Colin Hanks is supposed to be playing. Still more evidence of a diamond in the rough.

My advice to you is to not see this movie if you sincerely love George W. Bush. Conversely, if you hate him, be forewarned that you might find yourself respecting him at times. It’s an extremely slippery slope, but regardless, it’s an interesting movie, even if it’s a few cards short of a deck. It’s probably a good idea to put this one on your radar. If nothing else, you’ll get some laughs.

Grade: B-
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