"W." is presidential biopic without bite | VailDaily.com

"W." is presidential biopic without bite

Charlie Owen
Vail, CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

Maybe it’s the fact that he’s still the sitting president and we haven’t had time to gain any post-Bush White House perspective. Or maybe it’s just that we’ve had so much George W. Bush rammed down our throats for the past eight years that two more voluntary hours feels like too much. Whatever the reason, Oliver Stone’s latest flick, a biopic about George W. Bush called “W.,” fails to satisfy the hunger so many have to understand the 43rd president right now.

“W.” isn’t a bad movie, but it’s not as good as it should be given the fact that it’s directed by Stone (“Wall Street,” “Natural Born Killers”). He takes a very low-key approach to presenting “W.” as a bumbling idiot with a heart of gold who just happens to be in the right place at the wrong time most of his life. It’s not as scathing as one would think, nor is it very insightful. Josh Brolin (“No Country For Old Men”) runs away with the movie thanks to his very believable and nuanced performance as W., but even he can’t save the movie from feeling like just another family drama at times.

And a family drama with presidential ties is basically what “W.” is. Most of the film focuses on W.’s relationship with his father, George H. W. Bush and the various ways Jr. fails to impress Sr. and win over his love and affection. The viewer is shown a rough sketch of W.’s young adult life as he is hazed during a fraternity rush at Yale, does a brief stint at an oil refinery, lies to his girlfriend to get her to sleep with him and drives drunk before trying to fist fight his dad.

As Bush grows up and his brother Jeb and father take the political spotlight, his hunger to impress his dad gets out of hand. The film follows the path of least resistance, showing W.’s marriage to Laura and eventual “religious calling” to be president of the United States of America rather than some of controversy that’s followed his career (the questions surrounding his military service and the rumors of cocaine use). The film takes us up to his fumbling of the Iraq war and fizzles out with old footage of past Bush speeches that just feel unnecessary and make it last longer than it should.

Unfortunately, “W.” feels disjointed and unclear in what it is trying to accomplish.

Stone said he wasn’t trying to pass judgment on Bush, but instead he wanted to show the audience what it was like to wear his skin. But what we get is a jumbled tapestry of W.’s life and times and he ends up coming across as a caricature rather than somebody we can sympathize with.

An amazing supporting cast keeps the film from sinking into complete mediocrity.

Richard Dreyfuss is ultra-creepy as a very believable Dick Cheney while Jeffrey Wright plays Colin Powell with ease. Most of the roles work, but some like Thandie Newton’s Condoleezza Rice and Ioan Gruffudd’s Tony Blair leave something to be desired.

At least Stone can claim he was the first to make a movie about George W. Bush ” and there’s bound to be a slew of them once he’s left office ” but his take on the prez feels more trite than true.

High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2939 or cowen@vaildaily.com.

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