George "W." is far from perfect

Oct. 20, 2008, midnight | By Sophia Deng | 12 years ago

Despite superb acting, presidential movie doesn't meet expectations

Objectivity is Oliver Stone's virtue. Surprisingly, Stone, an extreme left-winger, directs a fair recount of the life of President George W. Bush in "W.," a biographical film that provides both insight and depth into a figure we are quick to mock. Despite the balanced portrayal, "W." lacks as much as George Bush does in brain cells. The highly anticipated film disappointedly becomes too sloppy and lengthy for true enjoyment. Although casting and acting are superb, "W." simply fails to deliver.

"W." begins with Dubya's days as a Yale frat boy and continues to his years as our current president. Bush (Josh Brolin) is a complicated man, who grapples with family expectations and alcoholism. He especially struggles with his overbearing father (James Cromwell), who never approves of anything he does. All the while, "W." interjects Bush's earlier years with flashes of his current presidency. In the present, Bush makes well-known political decisions, such as the invasion of Iraq, with the aid of Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss), Condoleezza Rice (Thandie Newton), Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright) and Karl Rove (Toby Jones).

Although the film attempts to be a clever biopic, Stone can't neatly package the story into a coherent movie. The constant movement between past and future in Bush's life provides action and interest, but eventually confuses the audience and blurs the different events of Bush's life into a jumbled mess. Stone over-emphasizes Bush's need for his "poppy's" love and desire to be better than his brother Jeb (Jason Ritter). Although touching, the idea becomes stale and lackluster after Bush desperately tries to win his father's love over and over again.

But what cannot be criticized is the acting in "W." All performances are sensational, especially Josh Brolin's. Brolin's demeanor, accent and ability to understand the man he portrays make him real and almost tangible. At times, Brolin looks and behaves so much like Bush that it is chillingly difficult for viewers differentiate Brolin from the president of the United States. Brolin masters all of Bush's subtle habits and persona, from his "heh-heh" chuckle to his nervousness during press conferences. But Brolin goes even further. He shows the complex nature of a foolish yet serious man, one whom audiences laugh at, but also one for whom they sympathize. It is through pure prowess that Brolin can make the audience empathize with Bush's insecurities and his initial loss of the Texan governorship. Although viewers know Bush as the president who caused widespread turmoil in the U.S., they just can't help but occasionally feel sorry for the man in "W."

Though Brolin takes center stage in "W.", the supporting actors are phenomenal as well. Dreyfuss is particularly noteworthy, creating a quietly intelligent and sly Dick Cheney, who sinisterly controls Bush like a puppet. When the Bush administration talks about its agenda, Dreyfuss is able to send chills up viewers' backs when he, almost evilly, emerges from the corner shadows of the office, conveying a natural eeriness that brings the vice president to life.

Unfortunately, superb acting alone does not hold "W." to the end. The beginning started with memorable scenes, including ones of Bush's hard-core frat boy days, which kept the film entertaining yet informative. However, as the movie developed, the story became boring and one-dimensional. Bush's discussions with his cabinet about the Iraq war, although essential to the movie, dragged out too long. By the end, "W." became sloppy and was unable to connect its various scenes, leaving audiences confused when walking out of theaters.

Despite its confusion, daunting length, and failure to meet its high critical acclaim, "W." is interesting and, for the most part, enjoyable. Stone's objectivity gives viewers an understanding of the asinine Bush the public knows as well as the private man who just wants some nice old beer and baseball. The outstanding acting covers some ground lost from the film's problems. Conservatives and liberals alike should see "W." before the presidential election. Although it won't change minds, the movie will surely provoke heated discussions.

W. (129 minutes) is rated PG-13 for language, some alcohol abuse, smoking and brief disturbing war images. Now playing in theaters everywhere.

Sophia Deng. Sophia was the Managing Editor of SCO during the 2009-2010 school year. When not laughing or chilling to OWL CITY, Sophia can be found oil painting, playing volleyball, doing sudokus and sprinkling happy fairy dust over everyone. She loves folk/pop/electronica indie, Harry Potter, Burt's Bees … More »

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