Tuesday, October 21, 2008

W. : A - Z of how to (and how to not) become the President


I cannot tell a lie. I must state upfront that I love Oliver Stone. He's definitely in my top 10 directors of all time; however, knowing that I'm pretty terrible at ever completing a top 10 list, the only other one that I can comfortably reveal at this time is Steven Spielberg, so I can't rightly say exactly WHERE on that list he would appear, but I digress.

It would be terribly unfair of me to try to state that this a completely non-bias critique of a film, when I clearly went into the film with definite expectations, given the fact that it was Oliver Stone. Having said all of this, Stone's most recent foray into the political conspiracy that is our government is neither quite as skewed nor quite as controversial as I believed it would be. This is not to say that it's not a highly enjoyable, powerful film.

If I were to sum up this movie in one line it would be this:
"Good Old Boys... Be careful what you wish for."

At it's core, this is a movie about a privileged young man, who never had to make any decisions on his own, who is very willingly thrust into the highest position in the world, and hence, has no clue about how to make decisions regarding millions and millions of people. Are all of the facts exactly accurate and is every scene filmed verbatim from the actual events that occurred. Of course not, that's why this is fiction. Haven't we already had enough documentaries about the Bush Administration.? Instead, "W." feels more like Oliver Stone invited you in for dinner, sat you down and said, "what if this is what happened?" and takes you on a 131 minute meandering through the warped and twisted world of politics. There are enough facts to make it frightening and enough embellishments to make it easier to laugh at.

With "W." Stone turns over that rock that's been sitting in the mud a little too long and shows us all of the creepy crawlies underneath. Josh Brolin, in a convincing performance, shows us the trials and tribulations of what it must be like to grow up in America's equivalent of a royal family. Perhaps the Bushs' and the Kennedys aren't exactly monarch material, but let's face it, they're the closest thing we have to dynasties, and the pressure is on them, from time to time, I'm sure.

George W, sometimes known as Geo, sometimes W, sometimes Junior (Indiana Jones flashback anyone?) is clearly a man in search of an identity, as indicated by the above mentioned changing names, and he eventually finds it, ironically enough, as the highest elected official in the land. It really is the case of being in the right place at the right time and surrounding yourselves with the people who can make the decisions for you.

For anyone looking to have even more venom to launch at our current president after watching this film, stay home, because it's not nearly as biased as either side would have you believe. Georgie-boy doesn't get off easy, but Stone saves his worst jabs for the cabinet officials who surround W, treating him as if he were the boy in the bubble. Richard Dreyfuss is downright frightening as Dick Cheney and the cabinet sessions are the scariest thing on film since Jason Voorhies escaped from that lake. It makes me glad that I can't watch the actual sessions. Thandie Newton as Condoleeza Rice is especially over-the-top, (Jessica Rabbit might have been a better choice for this role) but overall the cast pulls off what might have once seemed impossible: making our right-now reality into a more consumer-friendly version of itself.

This isn't Stone's best work (my personal favorite is JFK, although plenty of others might cite Platoon or Born on the Fourth of July) but it is a movie that makes you think about how quickly your world can change, pretty good fodder for an election year, I would say.

Grade: 3.5 hanging chads out of 5

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