W. (15)By Kim Francis
November 04, 2008
Oliver Stone’s latest political biopic is highly unusual.
In the United States, it was rushed out ahead of Tuesday’s election to decide the its next President, it attempts to paint a portrait of President George W Bush, a man who remains in office until January.
As a result, the picture feels a little restrained and constrained; as well as surprisingly light-hearted, glossing over some of the more controversial aspects of Dubya’s presidency.
It does, however, give an insight into his relationship with his father, former president George Bush senior (James Cromwell), revealing to those of us who know little about the man that Dubya was, in his father’s eyes, constantly in his brother’s shadow who simply never measured up, even when he won the presidency.
Stone allows us a glimpse of Bush’s college days and his penchant for partying and also highlights his loving relationship with his wife Laura (Elizabeth Banks) – a truly touching aspect of the film.
The pace of the story Stone tells is slightly misjudged and we rarely feel involved with this ultimately sketchy and lightweight portrait.
You cannot help but feel that Stone skirts around the more controversial issues and as such you feel a little cheated that the film does not delve deeply enough and, crucially, is not damning enough, despite Stone’s assertions that this was not his intention.
The film is, however, an absolute must-see and for one reason alone; the performances.
Support from the dependable Brit Toby Jones as Karl Rove, Scott Glenn as Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney, Elizabeth Banks as Laura Bush and James Cromwell as George Bush Snr is superb.
All play up the humour in the situation and judge it to perfection without descending into caricature.
All except for Thandie Newton, that is who, though commendably vanity-free in her portrayal of Condoleeza Rice, always seems as though she is sending her up.
The highest praise is reserved for Josh Brolin whose performance is nothing short of extraordinary. He injects a large dose of warmth into the simultaneously idiotic and bumbling character.
Ultimately mocking in tone, W. paints a picture of a faintly ridiculous, simple yet inept man but also of a man with the courage of his convictions.