Monday, February 22, 2010

W. (2008)

Staring: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks, James Cromwell
Directed by Oliver Stone

"W" is Oliver Stone's film about the life of George W. Bush, who confronts many challenges and disappointments as we makes his way out of being the black sheep of the family and into the White House.

This is a terrible movie. I was surprised at how bad it was. I was not expecting it to be a masterpiece, but I was expecting it to be at least halfway decent. It wasn't: the story-line was disorganized, the acting ranged from mediocre to crappy, the dialoguewas ridiculous, and worst of all, it does not really serve a purpose.

The first part of the movie goes back and forth between the run up to the Iraq war and the events of Bush's young adulthood at a rapid paste and it is hard to keep up with it. There are also a lot of random scenes (like the pretzel incident) that make no sense in the overall picture or are just awkward. This eventually settles down, but then the movie continues to suffer as it goes from being confusing to just plain boring.

Josh Brolin does an okay job as Bush, but for most of the movie you can't help but notice that he seems to be playing a caricature of him instead of making seem "real"; he comes off as being like a second-rate Will Ferrel or Frank Calendo. Richard Dufress does a decent Dick Cheney impersonation (though his voice is a little off), but virtually everyone else either does look like/act like who they are supposed to be, does not try, does not really need to try, or does try and fails. The woman who played Condoleezza Rice deserves special mention; she combined bad acting with a random accent that does not appear to belong to any person, nationality, or ethnicity that I can think of.

Even if the acting was better, the performers would still fall victim to the bizarre screenplay; many scenes look like bad Saturday Night Live sketches (and those of you who have seen bad SNL sketches know just how low they can go). Sometimes they will bring up controversial political topics for about five seconds and then move on to something else without ever expanding on what they were talking about. It seems like they just pasted together a bunch of news paper headlines and infamous Bush quotes (yes, "misunderestimate" is in there, along with others) and tried to pass it off as everyday dialogue.
Perhaps one of the worst things about the film is that, in the end, it has no point. Supposedly, Oliver Stone wanted this to be a psychoanalyst of the president and how he came to be who he is and how he arrived at the decisions he made. Yet we are left not knowing how we are supposed to feel about Bush. Is he a stubborn jerk who didn't think properly? Is he a noble warrior who made some mistakes along the way? Is he a pitiful loser who had daddy issues? I suspect we are we supposed to decide for ourselves, right? Well, that may be a problem because Stone has been very outspoken against the former president, so no matter how much he may deny that his politics will slip into this movie, the objectivity of the film is always in question and is further injured by everything I have mentioned in the previous paragraphs. Whatever the answer is, it is not likely to satisfy anyone. Most conservatives probably will not see this movie, but even liberal Bush critics may be disappointed by it because Oliver Stone (sort of) tried to make the film balanced in order to avoid the type of controversy that he received when he made "JFK".

This film also shows that you should not try to do a movie about a president while he is still in office: everyone, including Stone, has their partisan opinions about him and everything is still in motion; its like making a movie based on a novel that has yet to be finished. Besides, why pay money to see a guy you could, up until recently, see in the news for free everyday? It's not like you are going to learn anything new about him.

Well, that's pretty much it. I may be being a bit hard on this movie because I am obsessed with politics, and I get annoyed when filmmakers feel like they are being politically astute when they are really just putting out a lot of garbage. However, no matter which way you spin it, (get it? politics, spin? heh heh heh...) you cannot escape the simple conclusion: this movie is really, really, really, bad. The End.