W – a brief review

That’s Oliver Stone on the right:

So last night I was at the UK Premiere of W, the Oliver Stone film about George W Bush, which was all very exciting, walking up the red carpet at Leicester Square and so forth. Spotted a few celebs: Russell Brand in a skirt sitting a few rows in front. Rebecca Loos at the after party, etc.

But what about the film?

Something of a missed opportunity I’d say. Whatever you think of Bush, he’s certainly made his mark on the world (which hopefully will recover eventually), and therefore is a great subject for a film. Is he a complete idiot who got lucky? A conniving nepotist? A really smart guy who’s just misunderstood?  I wouldn’t have minded which Stone went for and explored – at least it would give you something think and argue about.

Well, Stone doesn’t know or even care to hazard a guess. All we get is a sequence of ‘things that happened’. He’s a fratboy. Then he’s an alcoholic. Then he meets Laura. Then he finds God. Then he gives up booze. Then he’s Governor of Texas. Then he’s President. Then he invades Iraq. He calls Bush Senior ‘Poppy’. A lot.

It really is that simplistic. No attempt to get under the skin – exempt for a bit of desultory father/son tension. We learn nothing we didn’t already know, and never have our prejudices challenged.

The performance from Josh Brodin, however, is good. He doesn’t do a caricature of Bush, but does exude that strange unaware brashness that Bush has. In fact the only bit of the film which very nearly gets good is during his appallingly mishandled visit to wounded soldiers in hospital, where you almost get the sense he might realise what he’s done. But then it’s the next scene and the next and it’s never explored again.

Similarly Richard Dreyfuss as Cheney and Scott Glenn as Rumsfeld are very good, but it’s not enough to turn this into a film with anything much to say or that tells us anything about ‘W’ that we didn’t already know.

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