Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Film Review: W.

Directed by Oliver Stone
Released October 17, 2008

Oliver Stone’s portrait of George Bush was criticized heavily even before it came out because it appeared to be both a mere rehash of Bushisms and a poorly timed critique of a sitting president. It turns out that “W” is neither of those things, and that’s perhaps the reason why it is so disappointing. It’s completely unfocused biography which leaves glaring amounts of time altogether uncovered. It requires a historical knowledge to fully grasp the entire story, and as a result feels incomplete. The cast of characters in the Bush administration are all colorfully played, but it’s often difficult to tell who’s being appropriate and who’s overdoing it without having closely followed the individuals. “W” should be relevant, that’s true, but it’s very likely that in a number of years, those unfamiliar with Bush staff will find themselves completely lost. In stark contrast to “JFK,” this film can’t hope to live on in time. It’s not an effective, timeless snapshot of a historical time. Worse than that, “W” refuses to take sides. It seems that Dubya is actually the only sympathetic character in the entire film, which certainly lends credence to the idea of a “life misunderestimated,” but it’s hardly the conclusion that might be expected from the actors Stone cast and the satirical slant of the trailer. In some cases, it’s an explicit parody (Thandie Newton is awful and obnoxious as Condoleezza Rice, Rob Corddry is hardly interesting as Ari Fleischer, while Karl Rove and Jeffrey Wright are great as Dick Cheney and Colin Powell, respectively), and in others, serious actors fill serious roles (James Cromwell as George H.W. Bush). Josh Brolin does a good job of portraying Dubya, though it’s more of an objective stance than anything else. There’s no clear thesis here, and the movie is not nearly entertaining enough to sustain itself without one. It clocks in at 2 hours and 9 minutes, which feels devastatingly long, even though the four hour runtime of “JFK” seemed perfectly appropriate. All in all, it’s just uninteresting – a horrible waste of such effort and scattered talent.


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