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Overall Rating
3.25

Awesome: 1.92%
Worth A Look44.23%
Average: 34.62%
Pretty Bad: 15.38%
Total Crap: 3.85%

6 reviews, 16 user ratings



W.
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by Rob Gonsalves

"It doesn't go as easy on Bush as you've heard."
4 stars

What will history make of President George W. Bush? Oliver Stone, as he keeps reminding interviewers, is a dramatist, not a historian, and his film "W." tells of a man who gained the world but lost his soul.

The movie, as you may have heard, is surprisingly gentle and even-handed towards its subject; as with Stoneís underrated 1995 Nixon, the director gazes upon a disgraced president and sees a weak man driven by family dysfunction (the two films make natural bookend pieces). No Bush fan myself, I was frequently moved by the spectacle of Stoneís Bush, who might have been a happier and certainly less troublesome man had he not been born a Bush.

W. is being marketed as an irreverent comedy, but the laughs, if any, are sparse and hollow. At times, the movie is suffused with melancholic regret. Thatís not to say there isnít humor in Josh Brolinís dead-on incarnation of Bush from his frat-house days to the end of his first term (the movie ends well before things start really sucking for Bush). Brolin gets Bushís sidewise approach to speech, his crabbed, hunched movements ó Bush sees things simply, and his hands constantly shape the air to describe the world in either-or, Manichean terms (he isnít nonverbal, heís postverbal). Often stuffing sandwiches (or the famous pretzels) into his face, Brolinís Bush is almost childlike, or at least a case of arrested development, a kid still wanting to get Poppyís blessing and swipe some of the limelight from Jeb.

Itís well-documented that Bush was a layabout and a drunk well into his adult years, flitting from job to job, until finally he got Jesus and quit booze. Stone doesnít make much of Bushís conversion, but he doesnít ridicule it either. A scene with preacher Earle Hudd (Stacy Keach), a composite character, praying with Bush is tender and intimate; years later, when Hudd is a more prosperous TV evangelist, Stone tosses in a close-up of his tacky belt buckle emblazoned with a cross, but for the most part Stone presents Bushís faith without judgment, as something that saved his life and many other addictsí lives. Itís when policy is pursued based on that faith that things get sticky.

Now that the Godfather films are ancient history, Stone is the master of darkly electrifying scenes of powerful talking heads. W. draws back the curtain and finds Bush surrounded by advisers trying their damnedest to realize the presidentís dream of finishing what his father started. Saddam Hussein must fall; itís a point of honor for Bush, his chance to wreathe the family name in glory. Saddam falls, but the Bush legacy falls with him. Perhaps Saddam was more valuable to Bush as a motivator than as a game trophy. The plotting is less sinister than matter-of-fact: the war must be sold to the American people, and Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss, underplaying nicely) sees Bushís daddy issues, sees the global chessboard with all that oil for the taking, and makes his move.

Bush infamously acts from the gut, and so does the movie. W., a rushed production, didnít have the lead time and doesnít have the screen time to dig into Bushís psyche the way Nixon did with Americaís previous executive failure. Thereís not as much to dig for, anyway; itís all pretty much on the surface, pretty much Psych 101.

But the film does take a generationís most despised president and turn him into a man, a human with a loving wife (Elizabeth Banksí Laura Bush provides a pocket of warmth and grace) and devoted little dogs. And it transforms him from a figure of scorn to a figure of pity, a trapped man who, when asked to identify his mistakes, canít name any because he doesnít know where to begin.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=17501&reviewer=416
originally posted: 10/18/08 14:32:22
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User Comments

11/12/09 Jeff Wilder Good. Could've been better. 3 stars
9/20/09 MP Bartley Brolin is great but film is thinly sketched. Stone should have sat on it a few years... 3 stars
2/15/09 Anthony Feor One of my favorite films of 2008. Loved it. 5 stars
2/14/09 Tony Sanitized retelling of the rape of Lady Liberty and Madam Justice from the rapists' pov 2 stars
2/12/09 Jay A waste of time. I am as upset about Bush as anyone, but this film is flimsy and dumb. 1 stars
1/26/09 mr.mike Brolin's spot-on performance carries an OK film. 3.5 stars. 3 stars
1/15/09 FrankNFurter Oliver Stone is a pussy. This film is totally dumb & toothless, much like the president. 1 stars
11/11/08 Colleen H a sad commentary, especially his relationship with GHW 3 stars
10/27/08 Samantha Pruitt the acting was great, it made you kind of feel bad for him. Brolin was great! 4 stars
10/24/08 Simon Indecisive film, which despite admirable sympathetic intentions, leaves viewer dissatisfied 3 stars
10/23/08 g. amusing but not great 3 stars
10/22/08 Erik Great Review,watching this for Josh Brolin. 4 stars
10/19/08 PAUL SHORTT OFFERS ONLY CHEAP JABS RATHER THAN USEFUL INSIGHTS 2 stars
10/19/08 Nick Somoski Nothing like I thought it would be - it was actually a great portrait of Bush's life! 4 stars
10/19/08 Dru Stone is a genius, and I actually felt a twinge or two of sympathy for W. 4 stars
10/17/08 tiffany pettey great acting in this movie 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  17-Oct-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 10-Feb-2009

UK
  N/A

Australia
  17-Oct-2008
  DVD: 10-Feb-2009



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