Since I’m finding it fairly impossible to digest the loose, satiric, moving and frustrating film “W.,” I’ll kick off this review with a few words that come to mind. “Wow.” “Weird.” “Why?” “WTF!?” That last one refers to the acronym that actually best describes the way I feel about “W.” As in, WTF did I just see? That’s not a bad thing, it just kind of renders any kind of star rating or any kind of straightforward review or opinion rather moot. “W.” is the kind of film that demands discussion and only then can we start to decipher what Stone’s intentions are towards our President.
I can tell you this, if you’re looking for the kind of film that pats you on the back for supporting or loathing George W. Bush, you’re not going to like this film. Stick to the myriad right and left wing documentaries that will make you feel right for believing whatever you believe. In “W.,” Stone, as he did in the excellent and underrated film “Nixon,” does an impressionistic look at an extremely controversial American President. Stone throws all sorts of things at the cinematic wall to see what will stick and while the film rather clumsily walks the line between parody, satire and drama, you’ll never get your one point of view fully supported.
Throughout the film (which jumps around timeline-wise) we see Bush Jr. as a ne’er do well frat-boy loser, struggling to find his path in life. Then minutes later, we have Junior as a man living in the shadow of his emotionally cut-off father, constantly seeking approval and willing to do anything to get it. Then later, we see Bush as a piece of political clay, always perfectly pliable and being manipulated by the much, much smarter people around him. But even when these scenes happen, W. comes across as sympathetic, albeit the kind of sympathy you feel while watching a turtle struggle on it’s back or while hearing Jessica Simpson speak.
I can also tell you this: “W.,” for all it’s points of view and intriguing ideas that are brought up, is an extremely sloppy film. There’s no sense of pacing and there’s an overall feeling of rushed slap-dashery to the whole affair. Sure, I’m willing to consider the idea that the editing and final product are meant to make you feel confused, on edge and somewhat dizzy, but in truth I think what we have here is a rush job designed to capitalize on the political fervor surging through our nation at the end of a crappy era in America. And that’s too bad because there’s some terrific stuff in “W.” Maybe a director’s cut similar to Stone’s “Alexander” will find it’s way to DVD.
For starters, everyone acting in this film is absolutely stupendous and that’s not hyperbole. Josh Brolin completely embodies George W. Bush and the very last scene in the film might be one of the best moments of method acting you’ll ever see. Much like Anthony Hopkins portrayal of Richard Nixon, Brolin doesn’t so much look like Bush Jr. but rather he embodies him so well he seems to become him. Similarly, Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney and Toby Jones as Karl Rove also fall into their characters so completely, you kind of forget you aren’t a fly in the Oval Office, watching the twisted events of this administration unfold. In fact, many scenes are acted so well and the subjective point of view is pulled off so perfectly, you feel like you’re in the room with these people. Of course at that point you want to grab many of them, scream and shout “Nooo!!!!” but alas this is just a movie after all.
Still I find it nearly impossible to really put together a cogent “opinion” on the film. While there’s much to admire I can’t help but feel there’s a better movie in there somewhere. But then as soon as I say that, it implies that what’s already there isn’t good… and it is pretty darn good. Argh! It’s a never ending cycle I tell you! As I said, “W.” almost demands discussion and if nothing else, a second viewing. And just so we’re clear, I’m not talking about George W. Bush the real life President and his real life “politics,” I’m talking about the movie “W.” A movie which is a wacky, wild and weird look at how the past 8 or so years of American politics and policy came to be.