"W." ** 1/2 (129 minutes)

Tuesday October 14, 2008

The trailer had me expecting an SNL-like satiric biopic of our lame duck pres. Knowing full well director Oliver Stone's liberal political leanings only enforced this expectation. So, I was genuinely surprised to, instead, view something quite different. Stone has been known to inflict his own agenda and realities into previous presidential films ("JFK" and "Nixon") so I thought he would come to this project a tad differently considering that the topic deals with a sitting president (the first such movie to do so). Indeed, I read that all the "conversations" are based on documented "facts" so I was curious to see how Stone would approach current history. The fact that he quickly put it all together (he began filming in May) so it would be released before next month's election, would indicate that he would somehow try to influence moviegoers with his antiwar philosophies by putting our distinguished President in as unfavorable light as possible. The result: an uneven account into the psyche of our 43rd president. Stone flips back and forth in time to show how this dimwitted dude, shown early on during a drunken initiation to join his college fraternity, could ever become President. Specific periods of his life depicted include how he met future First Lady Laura, his bouts with drinking, his born again conversion, his runs for The Senate and then as Governor of Texas. However, a good deal of the film deals with the period after 9/11 and how he involved us with the Iraq war and the subsequent revelation that no WMD's were ever found. Interspersed are his dealings with his inner circle as well as the elder Bush with the revelations that both he and mom Barbara considered him inferior to brother Jeb. All of these periods are just snippets which seemed hastily thrown together to disturbingly reveal a dude who is no more qualified to be the leader of the free world than . . . well, you can fill in the blanks on this one. Screenwriter Stanley Weiser (who also co-scripted Stone's "Wall Street") does include some humor, but, in the end, it is more a drama than comedy that ultimately left me feeling ambivalent, sad, and angry that this country elected a guy who has plunged our economy down the tubes, and has involved us in another insane war for all the wrong reasons. That being said, the main reason to recommend it is the acting by Josh Brolin-who is creating quite an impressive catalogue of work. His W is absolutely amazing. More than an impersonation, it is worth the price of admission to see how much he embodies him. Other acting notables are Richard Dreyfuss (Chaney), Jeffrey Wright (Colin Powell), Scott Glenn (Donald Rumsfeld), Toby Jones (Karl Rove), James Cromwell (George Bush, Sr), Elizabeth Banks (Laura Bush), a wild turn by Ellen Burstyn (Barbara Bush), and an unrecognizable Thandie Newton as Condi Rice. However it is Josh Brolin who really pulls it off-whose physical and vocal mannerisms brings W to life to such a degree that you will be counting down the days to when the prefix "ex" is attached to W's presidential moniker.

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