October 25, 2008

Like Shoving Freedom Fries Down Your Throat

A question of ethics is running through my mind right now. Is it ethical to release a biopic of someone, criticizing and satirizing the acts they did, while they are still performing those acts? I would probably say no. Oliver Stone, on the other hand, never even knew of such a question when he made W. or dubyah. That's ok, because satirizing George W. Bush, in any form, is alright with me. Stone's new film pokes fun at a lot of the actions taken by our President, but also manages to give the man a conscience that, while most likely not true, makes me want to forgive him for all the mistakes he's made. This is a biopic of George W. Bush, for Christ's sake. Do I need to explain much? It's just a standard retelling of his drunken fraternity days, to his run for Governor of Texas, to his first term as President, all culminating with one, giant mistake. We all know what that mistake is. Just by watching a trailer of W., you know that the casting is genius. Josh Brolin plays Bush, and, my God, he is good. He nails Bush down to every last heh heh. He is one point hysterically funny as he talks about giving up sweets as a sacrifice to show solidarity to out troops, and at the next a conflicted man who only wants to impress his father. An Oscar nomination for sure. He is very good, and is the reason you should spend $10 to see this. Pretty much all the other roles fade away compared to him. Elizabeth Banks plays Laura Bush, and she's good. Toby Jones plays Karl Rove. He turns on the slime and the charm as the man who advised Bush and his daddy. Richard Dreyfuss plays DIck Cheney before his duck hunting days. He is very good. Jeffery Rush plays Colin Powell as the essential, Republican with a conscience. He is also very good. The only rough patch in the cast is Thandie Newton as Condoleeza Rice. Everything about her character is so meticulously modeled after the real Rice that you get the sense she is trying to hard. The rest of the cast includes James Cromwell as Daddy Bush and Ellen Burstyn as Mama Bush.
Oliver Stone directs this movie like a parody of an Oliver Stone movie. In the movie, Bush is seen having a dream of standing in the middle of an empty baseball stadium, but still hearing the roar of an approving crowd. It's pretty trippy and feels very, well, Oliver Stoneish. I get the sense that Stone was a little depressed that he couldn't do things like that in World Trade Center, so he ratcheted up the surreality to appease his fetish. Those scenes are cool, but they are unnecessary and don't fit with the rest of the movie. But he does make some deft and smart choices when tackling this story. For one, the plot is chopped up so that the scenes of Bush's booze drenched frat days are interspersed with scenes of his Presidency. It's not told in order, so we don't see a whole hour of tedious staff meetings. It stays interesting. He also gives Bush a character that makes you sympathize with the man, even if you don't want to. According to Stone, Bush was always second in his father's eyes. He very much wants to be accepted by his dad as a successful guy, but his dad seems so preoccupied with other things. This leads Bush to invade Iraq; to please his dad by taking down Saddam Hussein, with whom his dad harbored a grudge. It becomes apparent right from the get go that he is just a idiot who gets in over his head. Not for his lack of trying, however. He is fed the wrong information, and is alright with calling his staff on that fact, i.e., no nukes in Iraq. He is just human, and, despite how you feel about the real man, you will feel a bit sorry for him when the movie is over.
W. is not a great movie, it's just a good one. It strikes close to home in this day in age, what with the election and the general abhorring of our president in out country. It's has great performances, a deep and conflicted lead, and some good tongue in cheek humor. Oliver Stone turns a good film, not his best, but certainly one of his most well put together.


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