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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Reviewed: W.

As mentioned yesterday, Sunday was my birthday and I had the pleasure of spending it in its entirety with Lady Trail, something that happens with less frequency during the school year [not complaining, it just is what it is], and we concluded it by seeing...W.

Odd choice for a birthday viewing? Not as odd as the year I saw From Hell. Now that was a life affirmer.

I don't know that I have anything to add to the discourse on the film that hasn't already been said. It seems to be a rather polarizing film, which is what obviously what Stone was going for. I will say this though: I was surprised how sympathetic the film was to him.

To explain, the promotional materials for the film all make it seem like you'll spend two hours pointing at the oaf muck up the country. Not surprisingly, these matters are rarely so clear. Put it like this, my first words out of the theatre to Lady Trail were, "Poor little fool." The movie doesn't portray Bush as some sort of clown, it paints him as a deeply flawed man who doesn't always exercise the best judgment, a condition exacerbated by the people he surrounded himself with, namely Karl Rove and Dick Cheney.

Also worth note is the lack of intrigue present in the film. This isn't like JFK or Nixon where Stone presented a healthy dose of speculation in the film. With the litany of books and reports on both sides that have trailed the Bush administration, most of the inflammatory scenes in the movie have been well documented by multiple sources, like his history of alcoholism and the lack of reliable intelligence before the Iraq invasion. It sort of leaves you wondering why you spent two hours watching things you already know about, if you've followed these things or have been an avid Daily Show watcher.

Finally, the acting must be commended, even if the actors don't always succeed. Thandie Newton is startingly good as Condoleeza Rice, but by the film's third act it almost seems like parody. Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney nails the glowering menace of the VP, delivering a speech supporting the Iraq invasion that left me shaking my head in sadness that people running a country, let alone the most powerful one in the world, could think in such a fashion.

But the star is Josh Brolin, and he continues putting together a hell of an acting resume. His Bush is confident, delusional, contradictory, charismatic, infuriating, and a man who refuses to be easily categorized. I don't know if I can recommend seeing it in a theatre, but it's definitely worth a rental just to see his performance.

You might think you already know everything about the man, you may have already written your book on him. W. shows that, to borrow a phrase, you might think you know, but you have no idea.

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