First off, before I even begin my review of this movie, let me say this: I will not be reviewing this movie from any political standpoint. As I walked out of the theater this past Sunday night, several of those I was with began to pick apart the movie for its portrayal of our 43rd President. I’ll do my best to simply give my opinions on the movie as art, and not politics.
That being said, I don’t believe there is such a thing as art without bias. Art is always birthed out of one’s worldview. So to assume that there could ever be a completely “fair” depiction of the life of such a public figure would be implausible.
W. is the story of George W. Bush’s journey from the frat house to the White House. The story follows Bush from his early days as a fraternity pledge at Yale through well into his first term as President.
Let’s start with the direction. Oliver Stone tends to be interested in heavy movies: heavy in tone, heavy in content, heavy in running time. And W. is no different. As you watch W., you can’t help but feel how serious Stone wants you to know he is. There are few moments of levity throughout the film, which is a shame. Not only does it make you feel like you might be missing something from the man, it also makes you really feel the running time.
Where the movie really shines is on the acting front. To say that it has an all-star cast would be a bit of an understatement. So many of the cast does such incredible impressions of the subject of their roles that you can, on occasion, forget that you’re watching a film and, instead, think you’re watching a news reel. Even the actors who don’t do impressions of their subjects (James Cromwell as Bush Sr. and Jeffrey Wright as Colin Powell) bring such gravitas to their roles that you excuse their lack of effort on the costume. Speaking of which, Thandie Newton as Condoleezza Rice is a sight to behold.
The real connection piece in the film came, for me, in the form of W’s relationship with his father. In the movie, it seems to be one of the primary motivations for a lot of his actions. Senior seems to live in an ongoing disappointment of his son. No matter what he achieves or does, it’s not the right thing or the right timing or in the right way. Senior, even when expressing some level of affection for his son, does so through written letters or cards. This, of course, makes W. want to strive for his father’s affections all the more. He wants to be like his father while still becoming his own man. This is best shown in one seen where he draws a comparison between himself and his dad, saying, “That was his problem. He thinks too much. He’s afraid to pull the trigger. I’m more of a gut guy.”
While W. isn’t a popcorn flick, it might be one that’s worth seeing if only for its potential cultural significance. Whether it actually realizes that potential remains to be seen. But remember, art is always biased. So don’t expect a “fair” assessment of our 43rd President’s life.
-Josh Treece- not to be confused with Josh Pease- is a jr. high volunteer at a great church. He’s still in shock over seeing a ref shoulder tackle Stephen Garcia in the South Carolina vs LSU game last weekend.