Saturday, November 15, 2008
Review of W.
Directed by Oliver Stone
Starring Josh Brolin
George W. Bush. Saying that name will certainly anger most people. One way or another, somebody has something against Bush. He is easily the world's most controversial person right now, as his policies have caused a wide range of protests from around the world, whether they're from an enemy of the United States or from an ally.
Now there is a movie about the man, W., directed by liberal firebrand Oliver Stone. This is his third film that is about a president in some way. The other two were JFK and Nixon, films filled with paranoia and conspiracy theories. They may have veered off into madness, but they were entertaining nonetheless. So that must mean W. is an entertaining, conspiracy theory hatching biopic, right? Wrong. W. is an indecisive film, veering between a serious drama and a silly comedy, with disdain and sympathy for Bush. W. also shows us what has become of Stone, a director who has lost all confidence in his directing. Back in the day, even Stone's failures had more cojones than the average failure.
What is wrong with W.? Is it the fact that it was rushed? It was only filmed a few months ago, and the same goes for the script written by Stanley Weiser (Wall Street). He obviously didn't have enough time to build up on some things, and it leaves viewers wanting more. He doesn't completely go into Bush's life and the controversies surrounding it. He only touches upon moments of Bush's life, when he could have dug deep into his mind and into the minds of people around him. I get the feeling that Weiser really wanted to imply that Condoleezza Rice has a crush on Bush. Why didn't we get to see more?
When the film does go deep into a character's mind, it's only the obvious things. For example, when Bush is briefed on the Iraq War, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove tell him about the vast oil fields in Iraq and manipulate Bush, while Colin Powell tries to talk some sense into him. We know that already. Cheney and Rove are the true policy makers of this administration. Powell tried his best to show Bush the right way. Add that to an attempt of trying to show us W.'s Oedipal battle with H.W., and you have a messy story.
Another problem is the film's tone. It can't decide whether it wants to be a comedy or a drama. Tense moments break down out of unintentional humor; funny moments don't get their humor out. Also, the film can't decide what position to take on the man. It's as if the film is taking on Bush's mantra of "In history, we'll all be dead." This is not the same Stone that once suggested in JFK that there were several teams shooting at Kennedy in Dealy Plaza.
I am also going to have to accuse the filmmakers for using Apple's Garage Band to score the film. Tense moments can't be taken seriously, because they have the wrong tone to the score and feel like they are taken from a cheesy TV movie. I would like to go up to the producers of this film and tell them that they shouldn't have sped up the production of a biopic of a man who is at the center of nearly every global controversy.
There are some okay, if not good things in the film. The acting is good and does a good job of keeping it serious. Add that and the excellent make up work (one of the very few times I will ever notice make up in a film), and the actors become perfect doppelgangers. Josh Brolin does a perfect impression of W., even though at some points, it's a bit silly. Richard Dreyfuss and Toby Jones, playing Cheney and Rove respectively, manage to get the two's manipulative stillness perfectly. The other actors get their characters' personalities right, but the performances might have had more power to them if Stone had more time to direct. Stone is a master of manipulation through films. His use of montage is beyond that of other modern directors. Unfortunately, we only see one true moment of his trademark use of montage. It is of Jesus matched with Bush at an AA meeting. Real obvious there, Ollie. Bush found Jesus.
Where are the scandal, controversy and untold stories of Bush's life? Not in this movie. In W. we only get the part of Bush's life we knew already, the stories that we heard about ad naseum in the media. If Stone and Weiser had more time with the film, and maybe released it after election, maybe we would have had a film with scandals and intense conflicts. With all the material that they could have come up with, W. could have been the year's best film. Instead we get this rushed attempt before Election Day, trying to cash in on election fever. A forgettable film on an unforgettable president.