Oliver Stone has done one hell of a thing with W., his latest presidential biopic. Earlier in the year he teased us with images of Josh Brolin and Elizabeth Banks assuming the shoes of the George W. Bush and wife Laura. The first trailer left people puzzled. Would it be a comedy? A critical look into Bush’s life? Damn it, Stone, is this going to suck?
Interestingly enough, the controversy that many may have predicted is essentially meaningless. What Stone has done is make a fairly accurate yet fully entertaining biography about our current president.
It is almost useless to dive into what the film is about. You can just about know full well what will be going on beforehand. The film follows Bush from his college years at Yale up until the months following the invasion in Iraq. For those hoping to see Bush completely annihilated by showing him as a party crazed, drugged-up lunatic, as well as a complete moron who should not be president, don’t bother with the film. Your bias won’t be appeased. But those on the other side of the fence shouldn’t expect a playing up of Bush, either.
What you have here is a relatively fair portrayal of Bush. You see his downfalls during his college days, his continuous struggle with alcohol and issues between him and the elder George H.W. Bush (played by an inaccurate but entertaining James Cromwell). But you also see his successes, his incredibly personable side and some great interactions between him and Laura.One of the film’s best moments happens when George meets Laura. Brolin and Banks play incredibly well off of each other and are rightfully the most compatible on screen. Many have attested to the real George and Laura having a great marriage and Stone pays that marriage its dues.
The portrayal of Bush’s cabinet members are a little odd, but mostly because these are people we have all seen in the news within the past few years. The freshness resonates a bit too much at times. Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright) receives, by far, the biggest fan service and the dialogue may show some commentary by Stone (Richard Dreyfuss’ Dick Cheney shoots at Powell in an argument: “…you could have been president”). Cheney, the self proclaimed Darth Vader of the administration, comes across more sinister than that. And Thandie Newton’s Condoleezza Rice is a bit too twitchy for her own good.
And while the film creeps along slowly during its two-hour running time, it manages to keep those without a massive mental-block of hatred towards Bush engaged throughout its entirety.
One has to wonder, though, if this would have been more critical if it was made further in the future. One may argue that Stone was dodging major flak for not taking a stance one way or another, but it does not hurt the film. It simply leaves it open for everybody talking about the film to bicker back and forth at each other.