Watched Oliver Stone’s W last night. Over all, I’d say it works pretty well, in that it is rather uncomfortable to watch.
Josh Brolin’s performance is to be commended, for capturing Mr. Bush’s speech, body language, and mannerisms without treading into SNL-style parody. (The same cannot be said for Thandie Newton, who actually seems to be doing an impression of Maya Rudolph doing an impression of Condoleeza Rice.) Jeffery Wright’s Colin Powell makes no discernable attempt to mimic its subject, but delivers a powerful and effective performance anyway. He, along with the elder President Bush, come out of W somewhat rehabilitated, if only by comparison to pretty much everyone else. Richard Dreyfus’ Dick Cheney is almost certainly over the top—one expects at any moment a scene where he is malevolently stroking a long-haired cat while seated on a swiveling chair in his secret lair—but since Dick Cheney is probably the closest thing to a James Bond villain that the United States has had in the last few decades, I’m OK with this.
The movie is genuinely funny in places, and touching in others. Both of these are severely muted by the shadow of the catastrophe that was the Bush presidency.
Oliver Stone being Oliver Stone, I take any and all “insider” details with a boulder of salt. The relationship between “Poppy” and “Junior” in particular seems terribly contrived, but who knows? But to be sure, some of the most jarring scenes are those that we all watched happen live on television, or were extracted from official meeting transcripts.
I’m sure the 26% crowd dismisses it as a partisan hatchet job, while a great many of Mr. Bush’s detractors are likely to view the film as more sympathetic than he deserves. I lean towards the latter camp myself. Stone’s (frankly uncharacteristic) nuance here may not be terribly accurate, but it sure as hell is interesting.