MONKEY REVIEW: W.

October 18, 2008

In an interview about W. prior to filming, director Oliver Stone described the screenplay, written by longtime collaborator Stanley Weiser, as “satire.” What’s ended up onscreen, however, is neither full blown satire nor the “fair and balanced” look at George W. Bush, 43th President of the United States, that Stone has been promising in recent weeks. Instead, it tries to be a bit of both as it bounces back and forth between key moments in Bush’s life, which ultimately makes for a frustrating and puzzling movie experience. It nevertheless remains absorbing until the final third or so, when it starts to feel increasingly aimless, arriving at an end point which seems suitably banal for its subject, but nevertheless doesn’t make for a very satisfying conclusion to a film. What works in W. is Josh Brolin’s performance as Bush, who goes well beyond mere impersonation to create a surprisingly sympathetic portrait of a deeply flawed man, plagued by personal demons, who goes from self-absorbed party monster to a politician spookily confident he is doing God’s will. It’s this last aspect of Bush’s personality one wishes that Stone would have focused on more, since it’s this same confidence that God’s will is being done that Americans are taught to abhor in Muslim extremists. Brolin thankfully does not overplay the scenes that deal with Bush’s faith, and neither does Stone try to mock it. This is not to say that Stone resists mockery entirely, as he does continually insert musical cues as a kind of satirical commentary on scenes that are otherwise played straight. That he does this regularly throughout the film makes one wonder why Stone didn’t just go all out and recast Bush’s presidency as a Dr. Strangelove for our times. Instead, it feels like a Dr. Strangelove that seems to locate its integrity in not going for the laughs.

P.S. Richard Dreyfuss’ work in W. as Dick Cheney is as dead on as Brolin’s work, and as Cheney was probably the most powerful and influential Vice President in history, Dreyfuss could support his own movie.

W.‘s Web site contains a guide that provides a nearly scene by scene breakdown of the film complete with annotations: W. – The Official Film Guide

MONKEY RATING: THREE MONKEYS

(For a brief explanation of the Monkey Review rating system, click here.)

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3 Responses to “MONKEY REVIEW: W.”

  1. movie fan Says:

    Josh Brolin did a convincing Dubya, though he reminded me a lot of his cowboy character from No Country for Old Men… over all, i don’t doubt that ‘W.’ will have the effect Oliver Stone desired

  2. radiondn Says:

    My issue with the movie was that I wasn’t exactly sure what effect Oliver Stone was hoping the movie would have. I would have rather seen him do Cheney: The Movie with Richard Dreyfuss, based on the book “Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency.”


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