Oliver Stone’s “W” — A Talent-fueled Let Down.

Like poppy Bush, I too am “deeply disappointed.”

Oliver Stone’s Bush biopic “W” was not the scathing gut-buster that I’ve been looking forward to for months. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t satisfying. I ordered jalopeno chocolate cake and got apple pie. Flaky crust, tasty filling, not what I wanted.

The film opens in theatres tonight.

I got to see an early viewing of Oliver Stone’s much anticipated film at Austin’s Paramount Theatre. The film kicked off the Austin Film Festival. Stone was supposed to present it and do a Q & A but the lefty James Cromwell (Bush Senior) came in his stead. Cromwell quoted Aristotle — “Know thyself. An unexamined life is not worth living.” — and then quickly left the stage.

I settled in for two hours of hilarious illumination, already excited to write my “oh hell yea” review. I fully expected to love this movie. Now here I am and, yea, I’m just not feeling it. The subject matter provided plenty of depth to plumb, the premise was timely, the previews were promising. Josh Brolin was brilliant. He had Dub’s voice down and moved with uncanny perfection. It can’t be easy to play someone who we see so frequently. He wasn’t playing the man who was once Prez, he was playing the man who is Prez. His portrayal was so convincing that Brolin was erased and replaced by Bush. Richard Dreyfuss was absorbed by Dick Cheney. Jeffery Wright ached as Colin Powell, the Jimminy Cricket of the Oval Office. Thandie Newton was creepy as a stilted subservient Condoleeza Rice.  Toby Jones was a wonderfully stinky Turd Blossom. (Rove.) Elizabeth Banks was magnetic as Laura. There was so much talent involved in this project and so many outstanding performances. Yet I was bored. Bored and bummed.

In the story-telling, there were some egregiously missed opportunities. They skipped over some juicy real-life stuff — Condoleeza referring to Dubby as her hubby, Bushie massaging the shoulders of the German chancellor. Coulda had a nice close-up of her cringing in repulsion as he obliviously kneads away at her flesh. A young Bush snorting coke and making an ass of himself. Then there’s some rumored strange that could’ve had us fascinated. But instead of exploring the reported oddities of the Bush clan, the film was a glowing portrait of an patriotic family. Ma & Pa Bush were quite charming despite their supposed flaws. Bush senior was cold and curmudgeonly; Barbara was a sassy old broad; Jeb was the defensive little bro. Black sheep Bush was a pale gray good guy. Banks’ Laura was lovely. But so adoring of Dub that it sometimes felt like a love story rather than a political bio-pick of a problematic, troubled president. By a director who is known for being bold & ballsy.

Stone’s “W” didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know and I’m no Bush aficionado. There was one thing, a scene that sums up Bush Junior’s success. In a fraternity hazing, when a paunchy pledge fumbles to recall the names of his potential frat bros, liquor is funneled into his throat. He chokes and sputters. Then comes Bushie (with Brolin’s hot bod) and he lists off first names, last names and nicknames. Superb memory + affable dumbass = Prez. Outside of nepotism, Bush’s genial social skills and memory for details are what made his presidency possible. W “makes nice” while a behind the scenes someone(s) feeds him intel. Dreyfuss’ Cheney is the clear villain. Brolin’s Bush is just a fumbling hobnobber with serious Daddy issues. 

The film is Bush-friendly. If it were a raunchy teen comedy, the Bush character would be the ditsy blond who despite here low IQ and shallow soul is somehow still a sweetie pie who tries to do right.

Afterwards, while the RobotBoy gooed and gaga-ed over pretty Elizabeth Banks, I struggled to find words for my dissatisfaction. Then the phone rang. Vince was anxious to know how it went.

So, how was it? Was it funny?

Um, yea, it was. Sometimes. But I’d already see all of the funny scenes on the trailer.

Ohhh. One of those.

And when it wasn’t funny it was sort of a human interest hallmark channel conservative fluff piece…. I dunno, maybe I’m just not in the mood to sit through the humanization of Dub-yoo right now. While we’re still in the thick of this mess, I guess I don’t much care how he hurts.

Yea? I saw something like that, somewhere, on someone’s blog, like ‘yea, really not so sure who this film is for.’

EXACTLY! I too am unsure. I only know that it’s not for me.

“This is just the beginning of a reconciliation of eight wretched years.” Oliver Stone

2 Responses to “Oliver Stone’s “W” — A Talent-fueled Let Down.”

  1. […] skits?  Palin was there and so was Tina Fey and so was Josh Brolin who just played Dub Bush in Oliver Stones W. You’d think they would’ve maximized those resources — all the better to impress […]

  2. […] while peering over the shoulder of a strange man. We were in line to see an pre-screening of W and I hadn’t brought my own reading materials. I was trying to be covert but the image of […]

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