W. Is O.K.

15 Oct

You may have noticed that I’m a Democrat. Despite that, I went to see W. with eager anticipation. This film, a look at the life and times of George “Dubya” Bush from his days at Yale through 2004, was an ambitious undertaking and came together rather quickly earlier this year. So kudos definitely go to director Oliver Stone, because the finished product is an impressive film. Led by a charismatic, excellent performance by Josh Brolin, W. portrays our current president as a guy who likes a good time, is easily bored, but loves a challenge. And no challenge is greater for the film’s W. than stepping out of his father’s shadow. Whether it’s pledging a fraternity, running for public office, or starting a war in Iraq, most everything W. does is motivated by his “Poppy.”

Stone and writer Stanley Weiser (who also wrote Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story) resist the temptation to paint W. as an incompetent fool and make the film a political attack. Not that this is an entirely sympathetic portrait either — far from it. Instead, Bush is shown as a guy who got in over his head and who’s surrounded himself with stronger and more threatening personalities (Thandie Newton’s Condoleezza Rice will scare you with just a look). Richard Dreyfuss’ Dick Cheney is appropriately menacing, and Jeffrey Wright’s Colin Powell does his best to stay noble and above the fray. But it’s Bush with the weakness and compulsion to win who is willingly coached by Karl Rove (Toby Jones) and his Cabinet and goes along with their plans.

Since I’m not totally up on my political knowledge, I can’t say whether the film is fair or accurate, but I can tell you it certainly feels authentic. That’s partly due to the acting, which is great across the board. It’s worth noting how huge and notable the cast is — in addition to those already mentioned, it includes everyone from Noah Wyle and Stacy Keach to Rob Cordrry and Ioan Gruffudd. You may giggle at first when you recognize certain cast members, but all settle into their roles nicely. I didn’t exactly love this movie — after all, it’s not like I was rooting for W. to succeed. Plus, we all know how things turn out for our supposed hero. But as a fictionalized document of current events, W. is engaging and interesting. Even though I don’t support this president, I can still support the movie. So I’m giving W. a B+.

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