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Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I worry about anyone who goes by a single letter. W. Does that mean he is too arrogant to believe he needs an entire name to be recognized by the world? Is he that much more fabulous than those egotistical blowhard celebs like Madonna, Cher, Elton, and Lassie? Or is it just that W. is too dumb to write out his entire name and so his family figured if he couldn’t even hack “Jr.” as in George Bush, Jr., they’d go with something even simpler, a single letter: W. What do you think the odds are that the first time Condi Rice brought a bowl of M&Ms into the Oval Office he thought somebody had created a candy in his honor?

Okay, okay, I know he’s not really that dumb. We are. After all, we’re the ones who re-elected him for a second term. Well, you did. I didn’t vote for him the first time OR the second, but as Bush said in real life and a moment recreated in Oliver Stone’s new film, aptly called
W., “Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice… well… you can't get fooled again.”

This “biography” of the life of George Bush Jr. (Josh Brolin; American Gangster) is such a letdown. Oliver Stone is known for his controversial movies, especially when they deal with U.S. Presidents (Nixon; JFK), and so there is an expectation that Stone would do an exposé of sorts, and there has been plenty of dirt within the Bush White House to dig up. Instead,
W. is a fairly reserved and whitewashed account of Bush’s life, expunging much of George’s well-known substance abuse problems, not even acknowledging that Bush snorted Bolivian Marching Powder throughout his college years and beyond. Instead, he is portrayed as merely a “problem drinker” who finds Jesus while attending an AA meeting, changing his life forever. I’m not sure the change was for the better. He seemed a lot nicer and a hell of a lot more fun before he found Jesus. That’s also when he discovered politics, and it’s not often “nice” and “politics” go hand-in-hand.

W.`’s personal life with wife Laura (Elizabeth Banks; Meet Dave) is not much more than a blur. Their courtship is fast-forwarded: the wedding, marriage, and kids ignored, which is such a disappointment. Even if Laura is dull as dishwater, those wild-ass twins grew up to be as drunk and disorderly as their father was as a teenager and it would have been interesting to see how W. dealt with the personal issue of handling his children’s delinquent behavior considering his past. Instead, the only focus on the past is the struggle between W. and his driving personal need to get his father’s approval.

W. is obsessed with pleasing his father, the former President George Herbert Walker Bush (James Cromwell; Tortured), and Stone would have us believe that the underlying reason for W.’s entire political career is based on a not-too-subtle rivalry with his brother Jeb (Jason Ritter; Good Dick). Apparently the other Bush siblings (Neil, Marvin, and Dorothy) are non-existent in this version of the Bush saga. At least there is a nod to the many jobs that W. has failed at or quit in the years leading up to his going to Washington DC to work on his father’s presidential campaign, when, after one example of W.’s pathetic work ethic is portrayed, George Sr. reams his son out for being an embarrassment to the Bush name. Can you imagine how Sr. must feel about that now? Ha!

Stone’s movie jumps back and forth in time for no apparent reason, but the most interesting portions of the picture are those that deal with the inner workings of the Bush 43 Presidency.

Casting Director Sarah Finn (Iron Man) has done an outstanding job matching actors who are able to physically resemble their real life counterparts while also “bringing the goods” as more than just adequate mimics. Richard Dreyfuss (Poseidon) is frighteningly real as Vice-President Cheney, and Thandie Newton (Norbit) is a dead-ringer for Condoleezza Rice. Along with Jeffrey Wright (The Invasion) as Colin Powell and Scott Glenn (Nights in Rodanthe) as Donald Rumsfeld, the cast that surrounds Brolin’s W. brings such realism to the scenes regarding Bush’s decision to begin the Iraq war you’d almost think you were eavesdropping on the real thing. If these scenes accurately reflect reality, then it is obvious that George Tenet (Bruce McGill; Vantage Point), head of the CIA, and some of the rest of Bush’s closest advisors were not as confident in the argument that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction at his disposal as Bush himself was. The actual attack on September 11, 2001 is completely ignored by Stone (which still stuns me!) and if the name “Osama bin Laden” is mentioned, it is only once and in passing. Clearly, this W. is only interested in one target, and that is getting Saddam Hussein and finishing what his father wasn’t able to do ~ bring his Dad’s one true enemy to justice or see him killed in the process. Either way, W. feels he will finally prove to George Sr. that he is worthy of his respect and love.

Obviously, there is no ending to this film and it just sort of peters out with a non-climax that is the final bit in a series of inserted fantasy baseball sequences of no consequence that run throughout
the movie. The whole thing is a wretched exercise in frustration. I don’t know if Stone is afraid of being sued, getting audited by the IRS, or of having some secret black helicopter swooping him up and dropping him off at Guantanamo Bay for the rest of his life if he was to suggest there was anything suspicious or improper going on behind the scenes in W.’s life. Frankly, without the dramatic tension one expects to find in a big budget bio-pic, this ends up being a rather bland near-documentary about someone who isn’t all that interesting, or, at least if he is, those parts have been excised from the story.

I’m glad we’re having an election in less than two weeks.
W. is not only a lame duck, he’s cooked too long and has lost his entire flavor. We need a “moist” new President to capture our attention, and hopefully someone whose life will someday will make for a good movie. W. isn’t the one. Pray we can expect better from McCain or Obama. And don’t forget to vote.

1 comment:

movie fan said...

Josh Brolin did a convincing Dubya, though he reminded me a lot of his cowboy character from No Country for Old Men...