Friday, October 24, 2008

Thoughts on W.

Tonight, I went to see the Oliver Stone movie W.

What possessed me to do such a thing?

My roommate invited me. If not for that invitation I would not have bothered. Nevertheless, I was curious to see what the fuss was about although I pretty much knew what was coming. After all, Oliver Stone making a movie about George W. Bush would be like asking Leni Riefenstahl to make a movie about Auschwitz.

A week ago, I saw Charlie Rose interview Stone and Josh Brolin (who plays W.). Stone insisted he had no malice towards Bush. Yet he insisted that if Bush didn't invade Iraq he would have invaded another nation. Meanwhile, Brolin said he prepared for the role by watching mice run through mazes.

I don't doubt he did because nearly everyone in the film was little more than a two dimensional caricature. Brolin mostly portrays Bush with a deer in the headlights look. Richard Dreyfuss does have Dick Cheney's physical mannerisms down but his portrayal of Cheney is reminiscient of his portrayal of Bob Rumson, the fictional Republican Presidential candidate in The American President.

The Bush Administration official who comes off as worse than anyone else is Condi Rice. Thandie Newton's interpretation of Rice in her original capacity as National Security Adviser leaves the viewer with the impression of something little more than an echo of Bush. Newton has the inflection of Rice's voice down but Rice speaks in a soft, smooth manner whereas Newton takes the inflection and makes it staccato and cartoonish.

Not surprisingly, the Bush Administration official who comes off the best is Colin Powell (played by Jeffrey Wright.) Of course, filming took place before Powell endorsed Obama but it was as if Stone was dispensing forgiveness to Powell as if he were anticipating his eventual seal of approval for The Anointed One.

The one other character who was portrayed in three dimensions was Laura Bush. Elizabeth Banks portrayal of the First Lady was the strongest of the film. Brolin's scenes with Banks were the only ones where his character took on human qualities. Otherwise, Stone would have been better off casting Frank Caliendo as Bush.

One genuinely sad note about the film. Towards the end of the movie there is a scene with an Ann Coulter like female commentator. She was played by Anne Pressly, a news anchor in Little Rock, Arkansas. Earlier this week, she was found beaten almost beyond recognition in her home. She is still alive but has not been able to speak and might have brain damage.

Many years ago, I saw Stone's Nixon. Anthony Hopkins portrayal made me feel sympathetic towards the 37th President. I also think that has a lot to do with the fact the film was made two decades after Nixon's resignation and a year following his death. For crying out loud, Bush still has 88 days left in office. Needless to say, there's a tremendous lack of perspective in the film. Who knows what Iraq will be like in 10 to 20 years from now? Perhaps history will be kinder to Bush. That is, unless, Oliver Stone is writing it. What do you expect of a director who casts an actor (Dreyfuss) who has publicly called for Bush to be impeached? There's also very little mention of September 11th. Making a movie about President Bush with few referenes to 9/11 would be like making a film about Lincoln's Presidency with little mention of The Civil War.

Then again it is only a work of fiction.

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