Saturday, October 25, 2008

W. (2008) A Film by Oliver Stone

The arrival of a biopic on the current US President George W. Bush immediately sparked my curiosity. I'm not exactly an enthusiastic follower of politics, but I'm no stranger to the President's inadequacy. I couldn't help but wonder how a Hollywood film would portray one of the most trivial politicians in American history. Then I saw that Oliver Stone directed W., which is no surprise when taking into account the slew of politically charged films he has churned out in his career, (JFK, Nixon, World Trade Center, and Born on the Fourth of July among them). There were many people angered by the portrayal of Bush, saying that Stone was "beating him while he's already down". I disagree; I was pleased to see an unbiased film that never felt politically heavy-handed and was in fact quite leisurely in tone. Stone just placed on the screen the personality that is George Bush's and left the audience to decide what to think of him. The film is unlikely to reverse anyone's opinion of Bush however; it will only crystallize firm held love or hate beliefs of him and at best will make one sympathize with a man who is just utterly incompetent.

The film is well researched too, jeopardizing entertainment for a truthful account of George's ascent into adulthood. To an extent, his parents neglect him. His father, the successful politician, believes he's not doing anything in his life besides drinking alcohol. When little Bush realizes this is for the most part true, he clings to superficial religious faith and decides to run for Governor of Texas. With the help of his new nurturing wife Laura, he miraculously is elected. Josh Brolin, who's really making a name for himself after his impressive work in No Country for Old Men, embodies the President with all the intensity, albeit false intensity, that the real Bush exudes during his addresses to the nation. There are several other strong performances in the film, such as Richard Dreyfuss's turn as the far more decisive Dick Cheney. He, along with Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfield, and Condoleezza Rice, act as Bush's brain trust. They realize he is passionate in his political attempts, but it is inevitable that he needs a strong foundation to correct him when he's wrong, (which is a frequent occurrence).

While W. musters up a fascinating portrait of Bush, it seems that the timing of it is a bit wayward. Political season is certainly getting spicy, and that has taken the focus away from Bush. Had this film been produced five years from now for example, the result could have been a film with a bit deeper of a psychological study, and undeniably more historical relevance. At that point, the country will have already seen the fruits of post-Bush reconstruction (hopefully?), and therefore a biopic on him would be more powerful. Imagine if Ray was made in the 1960's; the effect would have been tragically impermanent. Unfortunately, this reasonably well made film may slip into that category, and the tacky baseball dream sequences and sometimes dragged on length won't help.

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