And even if W. (see it in Widescreen) isn’t the was and all indictment of George W. Bush’s actions that detractors (and Stone followers) had hoped, it does present a compelling look at a man with Oedipal issues who seemed to have risen to the highest office in the States without really knowing how he got there or how he should conduct himself.
Josh Brolin (the guy’s certainly in the acting zone these days) is astounding as Bush. A few minutes onscreen, and it becomes uncanny how he seems to epitomize the 43rd President of the U.S. But before he seems to magically ascend to that role, a good part of it sets him up as to how he got there.
That means a lot of drunken nights (including a jail stint) being the rowdy Ivy League party boy where his only concerns seemed to be what he could drink and what women he would chase But tired of the hangovers and the soullessness of it all, he finds God at the age of 40, as well as his future wife Laura (a quietly powerful Elizabeth Banks).
At the film’s core is the struggle that he has with his father (James Cromwell), who regards George as a waste when compared to his other son Jeb (who he clearly has presidential aspirations for).
Cromwell portrays Bush Sr. as a driven, buttoned up Ivy League grad from another generation who believes that the family name is paramount and his reputation should never be sullied. One gets the distinct impression that Bush’s sole desire to be President come from a lifelong goal to impress his Dad.
To the film’s credit-and detraction-there are also plenty of scenes that show how Bush conducted himself while in the White House. He eats hot dogs and puts his feet up at his desk, an example of his aww shucks casual side – and yet he also has a curious blend of conviction and cluelessness.
This is best exemplified during a cabinet meeting he has about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, when advisors Dick Cheney (a spot-on Richard Dreyfuss), Donald Rumsfeld (Scoff Glenn) are goading him on while Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright) is urging restraint and caution. Bush is irate that he didn’t have all the facts, but doesn’t have the patience to wade through them all anyway.
Yet the film feels too short to be an effective biopic and tells too little to be the kind of thorough character study that one has become used to with Stone’s work.
Its fairly abrupt ending (with a blink and you’ll miss it question by local socialite Teresa Cheung, a producer on the film) tries to sum up his controversial time in office, yet one really longs for more of what went on behind closed doors. Unfortunately, those are the types of stories that will only come out long after W. has left office.