Whether you love the man or hate him, you will like the movie. Believe it or not, Oliver Stone has made a fair and very entertaining film about our current and soon to be former (thank goodness) president.
I don’t believe I’ve ever enjoyed an Oliver Stone film until now. The “Last Temptation of Christ” was offensive. “Nixon” was chaotic and oppressive. Most of his other films are so complicated they are impossible to watch without a road map. But, this one hit the perfect balance. “W.” shows the bumbling buffoon of a swaggering cowboy that Bush is well known for. But, by the end of the picture Stone has led us to a place to feel honest compassion and sympathy for a man that is quite simply in over his head. While the picture shows George W. Bush to be simple and somewhat stupid, he isn’t devious or malicious. I really wanted to give the guy a hug and a pat on the back when it was over. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the hunky Josh Brolin makes me want to sing “Hail to the Chief” with a whole new sense of enthusiasm. And, Brolin also makes us proud to know that GW is a brief’s, not boxers, guy.
I had heard that Stone had included the President’s Christian conversion. I was dreading seeing it on film because I feared it would be mocked in true Hollywood fashion. Instead, it was treated with great sensitivity and feeling. I can imagine that very scene happening in most of the churches across the South.
Stone’s movie finally hit the right blend of emotional elements; humor, sorrow, anger. It was easy to identify the multiple story/timelines involved. The supporting cast made all the characters serious and meaningful. It would have been a piece of fluff if the only major player had been the President. But, Brolin’s George W. seemed seriously presidential when surrounded by a cabinet that includes Richard Dreyfuss and Scott Glenn. The only questionable casting decision was Ioan Gruffudd (Fantastic Four) as PM Tony Blair.
Brolin should receive an Oscar for this performance. The character is perfect from accent and gestures, to swagger and expressions. Even in the scenes that showed W. at his most ridiculous I never felt that Brolin was mocking the man. The character was played with real respect and dignity. Brolin was able to deliver the charm and personal charisma that was present in the younger Bush when he ran for his first presidential campaign. The pre-9/11 Bush was the man that everyone wanted to “have a beer with.” Brolin gave us exactly that. With Brolin in the role it was impossible to dislike the guy. If George W. Bush were to be made into an action figure, it would look like Josh Brolin.
Make no mistake. Watching this movie will certainly not turn you into a Republican. I doubt that one could even call it historically or biographically accurate. But, its certainly entertaining. You should not be afraid to see this film. If anything, Oliver Stone and Josh Brolin have shown us that George W. Bush is not a monster. And, while they have not defended him, they may have explained and apologized for him.