Ethan takes a look at a life misunderestimated : Oliver Stone’s W.
- Now, as anyone who knows me in real or at least follows me on twitter knows, I am a pretty hardcore liberal. Heck you could call me a “Neo-lib”. So I of course despise the 43rd President of the United States of America, George W. Bush, with every ounce of my soul. I look at that man and see a clueless, evil chimp that has ruined a country I’ve wanted to live in most of my life. And since Hollywood is a pretty liberal town, many other filmmakers feel the same way. So we’ve had many comedic jabs from the likes of Saturday Night Live and David Letterman from more serious attacks from many of last year’s Iraq movies. But have we had a real look at this man? At who he really is?But the thing is, Oliver Stone’s W. is not a political statement. And I think that’s a major reason for the film’s mixed reaction from critics. This film is simply a character study. This is not just another attack on his disastrous decisions, it’s an examination of why he made them.
The point that I realized the effectiveness this film was in a scene in the first act. We see the results of Bush’s run for House of Representatives in Texas. When the radio stated that he lost I felt…bad. I had sympathy for someone who I consider a monster. I wanted him to win. This is all no small feat for me. We see that throughout the film, this is a man of good intentions, faith, humor and love. He is a likable and good person. But his flaw is his relationship with his father. He always strives for his father’s approval. And this is his ultimate downfall.
Most of the criticism facing W. is that it’s far too tame, pointless and shallow. But again, this film is not an attack or a political statement. It’s just the sad story of a man who wanted to do the world good but let his flaws get in the way. A man who never really stood up for himself or formed his own thoughts. Someone who always had the shadow of his father, adviser and VP looming over him. I’m sure most people wanted to the entire film to be like the War Room scenes. And don’t get me wrong, these scenes are fantastic and chilling, but they serve their purpose and leave. This movie isn’t about conspiracy theories and the lies of the government. I’m pretty sure that the decision to rush the film for a release date close to the election was purely for business. Not to just have one final insult to Republicans.
Now, I have to mention the film’s performances. Josh Brolin is simply superb as Dubya. This isn’t simply someone do a good impersonation. It’s someone creating a character with layers and relatable qualities. James Cromwell, Richard Dreyfuss, Toby Jones, Jeffrey Wright and Elizabeth Banks all give terrific supporting turns. If anything, the movie would fall apart if it weren’t for Cromwell. The Father-Son relationship if the fulcrum of the film. Cromwell brings a genuine sense of heartbreak and disappointment. He never feels the need to an impersonation of Bush Sr. but it works. Dreyfuss and Jones are the undeniable villains of the film but it’s never over the top when that could’ve been and easy decision. Wright and Banks are the voice of reason in the film. Both are clearly using accents but it’s never caricature. Though I do have to mention probably one of the biggest flaws of the film. Thandie Newton as Condoleeza Rice. She is horrible and distracting in every scene. She doesn’t at all fit in with what Stone is going for.
When W. ended I felt really sad. I had seen a good man fuck up big time and have to live with it the rest of his life. There’s a reason why the movie doesn’t go past 2004 and has a clear “The End” title card at the conclusion. That this is the legacy of George Walker Bush and there’s nothing more he could’ve done. He’s ruined his life forever. There is simply no more to it. Now whenever I see George W. Bush, I will feel bad for this man. He’s not evil. He’s just flawed like anybody else.