60 of 73 people found the following review helpful
To be honest, I am a liberal who went to this movie expecting to see a funny parody of George W. Bush along the lines of a Michael Moore film. While I did laugh at times during the film, I left the movie feeling strangely sympathetic towards poor W. Stone plays it surprisingly straight, presenting Bush as the kid who had trouble finding his way as a grown-up. The main focus here is on Bush's relationship with his father, particularly his efforts to constantly try to please George the elder and falling short, especially when compared with his brother Jeb. Stone effectively weaves in flashblacks from Bush's college and early adult years with his first term as President. Some major events, including the 2000 election and September 11th, are given almost no attention, but again, that's not the main focus of the film.
The movie is superbly cast. Josh Brolin does an amazing job as W.; he manages to capture Bush's mannerisms in a portrayal that is uncannily accurate without becoming a caricature. Then there's James Cromwell, who looks and sounds nothing like George Bush senior but somehow manages to depict the former President perfectly just the same. Most of the other supporting roles are excellent as well, from Richard Dreyfuss as Cheney to Jeffrey Wright as Colin Powell; the one exception was Thandie Newton's Condoleezza Rice, who DID feel more like a caricature.
No matter which side of the aisle you find yourself on, this is an engrossing movie with the potential to appeal to many different types of people, and I definitely recommend it.
105 of 137 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2008
Oliver Stone's "W." is one of the year's most absorbing films, and that's because, as the tagline suggests, it reveals that George W. Bush has been greatly misunderestimated. Watching this film, we see not the forty-third President of the United States, the former Governor of Texas, or even a politician in general. From my perspective, we're being told about an insecure man who reaches too far in an attempt to earn his father's approval. This movie is not a political commentary--it's a character study. Better still, it's a character study that's more or less historically accurate, with Stone and writer Stanley Weisner relying on published works and in-depth reports for the screenplay. Liberties were obviously taken; after all, there's no way anyone could know exactly what was said behind closed doors. But all the basic scenarios are well documented, which is to say that the film never once felt contrived. The end result is a compelling, complex, and occasionally funny examination of a person who always has something to prove.
Josh Brolin is perfectly cast as the title character, flawlessly capturing the mannerisms and diction we've become so familiar with over the last eight years. We see him as a determined but incompetent man who claws his way up to the presidency without the necessary skills. Pay close attention to scenes featuring W. in staff meetings; it quickly becomes clear that political heavyweights like Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss), Karl Rove (Toby Jones), Condoleeza Rice (Thandie Newton), Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright), and even the infuriated Donald Rumsfeld (Scott Glenn) are making all the important decisions. As for W., well, let us not forget that the real President Bush publicly declared that his faith in God influenced his foreign policy decisions. In the film, he ends every meeting by having everyone bow their heads in prayer; I expected nothing less from a man who found God at age forty, when he was in the thick of his AA treatment. In 1999, he tells his pastor (Stacy Keach) that, even though he had no desire to be President of the United States, it was God's will that he campaign.
The film also takes some time to develop the relationship between W. and his wife, Laura (Elizabeth Banks), who he met at a friend's barbecue while running for Congress for the first time. In the film, Laura Bush is sweet, understanding, and patient, and it's easy to believe the love she feels for her husband. She seems to regard W. the same way a mother regards a baby taking its first steps: She encourages him endlessly, and she's always there to support him if he should trip and fall somewhere along the way. At that pivotal stage of W.'s life, the world of politics is so new and challenging that he needs all the support he can get.
One of the most interesting things about this film is the structure. Rather than a complete chronological biography, Stone opted for non-linear fragments, starting in 2002 but then flashing back to 1966 before going to 2003, and so on and so forth. He also chose to omit specific events in Bush's life; we see neither the 2000 nor the 2004 election, and we're spared the tragedies of September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina. This will undoubtedly frustrate certain audiences. I didn't have a problem with it, and that's because this film is about his personality, not his political career. As the pieces of the story come together, we discover the man behind the president: he was a C-average college student who spent most of his time getting drunk; he gambled and went through women; he seemed to take no interest in holding a job; he was always at odds with his disapproving parents, who seemed to favor his younger brother, Jeb.
There's a moment in a 1970s flashback when W. comes home drunk and announces that he was accepted into Harvard Business School. When his mother (Ellen Burstyn) demands to know why he never told them, he admits that he never intended to go--he just wanted to prove to his father (James Cromwell) that he could do it. This doesn't please Poppy Bush very much, and that's because it was his own string pulling that got his son accepted in the first place. There's a definite rivalry between the two, one that W. drags all the way to 2003, the year he decided to invade Iraq. Colin Powell, who in 1991 oversaw Operation Desert Strom along with Dick Cheney, makes it clear that Saddam Hussein had no hand in the 9/11 attacks. That doesn't matter, decides W.; he wants to finish the job his father failed to finish back when he was President. Besides, there's evidence to suggest that Hussein is concealing weapons of mass destruction.
But I'm not convinced he actually believed this to be true. It seemed more likely that he was just going along with what others were saying. Oliver Stone describes George W. Bush as a Western hero so one-tracked, he refuses to back down even when he's wrong. "There's just no examination of the interior life," he said in an "L.A. Weekly" interview. "He doesn't look back. He doesn't regret. He doesn't seem to read very much--or think very much--about what he does." Some may be compelled to take pity on W. after seeing this movie; it paints a picture of a man who wanted nothing more than to own a baseball team. Others, I'm sure, will not have their minds changed one bit. Whatever your reaction, I personally feel that this is one of the year's best films, presenting us with a fascinating character study rather than a scathing political commentary.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2009
When making a semi-biographical film, there really are two ways that one can go about the task. The first method would be to try to be as objective as possible in trying to present all sides of a person's life and public reception equally. Sadly, that method was most definitely not used by Oliver Stone in the making of "W".
Upon just a surface-level viewing of the film, one might think that, objectivity-wise, it isn't really too bad. George W. Bush is portrayed both at his worst (the college years) and at his best (the 9/11 response), including pretty much all his important life events in between. Yet, for viewers who did not feel that Mr. Bush was the root of all political evil while in office, they will be able to see the framework from which Stone is portraying our latest departed President.
Basically, the #1 problem inherent in "W" is that it clearly takes the stance that Bush is an idiot, no matter what the time period, situation, or office he holds. For example, instead of the strong leadership ability that was the Bush administration's "claim to fame", Stone projects G.W. as a stupid, bumbling idiot who was nothing more than a puppet of a few of his more superior cabinet members (such as Vice President Dick Cheney). Then there is also Stone's take on George W. Bush becoming a born-again Christian. Instead of perhaps even hinting at the fact that Bush might have made a sincere and heartfelt transformation towards God, Stone portrays the revelation as just emboldening Bush to keep blundering through life, as now he supposedly has God to back him up.
Unfortunately, those two examples do not stand alone...the entire film is just dripping with the "idiot Bush" mentality. It seems to be as if Stone's thought process behind the film was not "let's make a live-action biography of George W. Bush" so much as "let's show how idiotic Bush is and yet he stills becomes President".
Now, with that being said, the movie wasn't (by far) the worst that I have seen in terms of political favoritism/non-objectivity. Essentially, Stone just examines the life of George W. Bush through a single prism: that of a bumbling fool who somehow became President. Is that correct? Who's to say...it's just one possibility. I just wish that Stone would have widened his view a bit.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 17, 2013
I read the reviews. I knew better. I watched it anyway. A half-hearted movie that makes one wonder why Stone even bothered. Obviously, the days of Platoon, NBK, and JFK are a distant, quickly fading, memory. It is as if he felt obligated to finish a once promising project he lost interest in. Brolin makes a good Bush and Wright does well as Powell but the rest are just poorly cast public image caricatures best suited for SNL. The movie is surprisingly lighthearted, even mildly sympathetic in portraying a bunch of people who used a national tragedy and nonexistent evidence of wmds as an excuse to invade the wrong country. War crimes. Treason. Bush and his camp, besides Powell, were arrogant, insular C+ students steeped in simplistic Manichean world views. The world is suffering for their crimes of incompetence. Bush isn't stupid, just weak, directionless, desperate to be liked, approved of by his father and, thus, prone to being bullied and condescended to. Brolin portrays this excellently. I think Bush really did believe there were wmds and was shocked and angered to realize he'd been the unwitting participant in a massive dupe. How sad. How sad for the world.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2013
Completely humanizes the man, even if you hated him in real life. The casting couldn't have been better. Richard Dreyfuss portrayed Cheney exactly the way I had imagined he was.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2009
Four stars because all the demands of this difficult project were met by researchers, writers, lawyers, set creators, casting, wardrobe and makeup, cameramen, director, editors, etc. Oliver Stone could bring it through. Unlike the man the picture is about, who could not.
In making this film, Stone knew he would have to travel a straight and narrow path, lawyers to the left of him, lawyers to the right. All the characters in the film are drawn from still living persons, any one of whom if "maligned" could wield the injunction club and force reshoots or reedits or entomb the master print for a quarter century. Stone and his financiers would be left reeling. Thus we find ourselves at an anticipated Golden Gloves competition, No Punching Profanity Shouting or Spitting Allowed.
In the first portion of this film, I felt like I was caught up in a flash flood. Finally the appearance of Laura calmed me down, here instantaneously was a warm human being. The restaging of the catastrophic White House doings gave me a You Are There simplified refocus on the existent megaton journalistic trove on the same subjects. The physically towering Father Bush was an indulgent exaggeration to make a point. The film evoked no emotion or insight.
You've heard of the Peter Pan syndrome, but maybe not of Kidult or Puer aeternas. These terms, loosely applied, come to me as I see "George W. Bush" in the film. As he envisions himself as the Sports Hero as thousands cheer, as he cockcrows at the frat house, as he saucy flirts with Laura girl, as he stuffs sandwiches into his face, as he bullies, as he makes big hard decisions without a second thought, as he relishes landing on the carrier in a pilot costume, as he finally muddles down tongue-tied at the press conference. (Oliver neglected to include a crucial scene of the President on tv tossing Us the People his bad-cholesterol Texas hushpuppies.)
Peter Pan, Kidult, Puer aeternas, playing with Poppy's gun in the Oval Office. By acclamation and chaddy ballots, Little Boy George, the new leader of Our Gang. (Turn green with envy, Farina.) Well, his eight years of D-minuses and Deportment Poor are over. Somewhere 500 monkeys are keyboarding away, they will either write Hamlet or GWB's Presidential Memoirs. If the latter, it will make millions. But I say Bosh, Mr. Bush, a penny for your thoughts!
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
George W. Bush is a man who was unqualified for every single job he's ever held. This would not be such a big deal if his chosen profession were as a shoe salesman or a bartender, but the job he hoodwinked people into thinking he could handle was none-other than President of the United States of America.
This is an inquisitive film which delves into his hellraising days at Yale (where he seemingly did everything BUT study) on up through to his ascension to governor & eventually president. I knew about his "issues" with trying to out-do dear-old-dad as prez, but I was unaware about the familial jealousies he had regarding his brother Jeb. Without holding a palavar on Dubya, Oliver Stone has done an impressive job in this film of psycho-analyzing what is perhaps the least intellectual president this country has ever seen.
The casting of the film was quite good, featuring James Brolin as Dubya and Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney. Dreyfuss carries an uncanny resemblance to the former VP, and they both capture the mannerisms of their characters nicely. Elizabeth Banks is a top notch actress, but her portrayal of Laura Bush was not ditzy enough for my liking. This is not a knock on Banks, but is rather a knock on the writers of the film. If the film were truly accurate, Laura Bush would have been depicted as being as clueless as Dubya more than 1/2 the time.
There are Conservatives who will scream that this movie is a hatchet-job. They can scream all they want, but they still can't change history. That the incursion into Iraq was a debacle is as clear as our involvement in Vietnam. The movie doesn't even go into Dubya's blunders in Katrina or his de-regulation & out-sourcing initiatives which led to the economic crisis that we now find ourselves in. If anything, the film actually makes us a little bit sympathetic to a man who got in WAY over his head.
As a Liberal, I can admit that Jimmy Carter was not a good president. It amazes me that there are still(!) so many Conservatives out there who want to defend Dubya's reputation at all costs. Sadly for all of us, the Bush administration was the most incompetent administration since that of Herbert Hoover, and the most corrupt administration since that of Richard Nixon. George W. Bush was the most ineffective leader of any American president since Franklin Pierce. This film tells the story of Dubya. It's not pretty, but it's accurate.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 12, 2009
Not too bad a bad movie (and not too inaccurate, I suspect) but at the end, a wasted opportunity. Brolin's performance is OK and he does most of Bush's mannerisms fairly well but I failed the understand the need for the cartoonish close-ups Stone gives him throughout the movie or for some scenes like the one showing him having a lenghty conversation with Laura when he's in the toilet (what was the point there ?). Personally I would have been a lot more interested to see what happened in W's own election night rather than in the one his father lost to Clinton but the way Stone handles the meetings between W and his staff in which crucial decisions were discussed in almost trivial and casual ways and which later brougth such dire consequences throughout the world, are more than enough reason to recommend this movie. Most people in the audience will come away from W with the certainty that Jeb would have been a much better president but with the repercusions to the Bush name after these 8 years, it is fair to say it is highly improbable we'll ever get to find out. The biggest WMD shown inthis movie ?: a pretzel. Now THAT was ironic.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2009
Some of this movie is interesting but it is definately not something that will keep you awake. If you're tired I would suggest not watching this movie. The way George Bush made his way to the presidency was interesting but the remaining parts of the movie could have been left out. I should have read a review before purchasing the movie.
25 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Here's an odd little movie. It's a kitchen sink drama about a sitting President of the United States. Yes, it's got stock footage of the Iraq war, and an all-star casting playing members of the Cabinet, and it's got a greatest-hits collection of everyone's favorite George W. Bush misquotes. But it's also a sad, downbeat little drama about a man-child who failed at everything he ever did, and then became President just to prove a point to his father -- and failed at that, too.
Oliver Stone's movie has been praised so far for not being overtly political, and for being somewhat sympathetic to its subject. Still, the director doesn't pull punches on showing "W"'s hard-drinking past, and he lists all of the man's life failures prior to becoming owner of the Texas Rangers. There are a few trademark manipulative Stone moments -- for example, a pan over the infamous "Mission Accomplished" poster quickly jump-cuts to a montage of Iraq insurgent bombshells and wounded veterans. We also get the moment where the Prseident nearly chokes on a pretzel while watching college football on TV. And, even though Bush did win the 2004 election, the movie stops short of that in order to end on a surprisingly downbeat note. This movie is sympathetic to Bush, but it's also quite critical. There's a fleeting image of John McCain, too, lest we forget the choice we have to make in a couple of weeks.
The cast is almost uniformly superb. Josh Brolin, playing Bush both in his hard-living 20s and his Presidential late 50s, carries off the role so effortlessly that it's easy to overlook how hard he had to work to make this movie work. And it does work, thanks to Brolin.
The aces of the supporting cast include James Cromwell as George H.W. Bush -- giving the man a true gravitas that pop culture denied him 15 years ago, when he was being parodied by Dana Carvey and "The Simpsons". Jeffrey Wright is heroic as Colin Powell. Finally, Richard Dreyfuss's interpretation of Dick Cheney merits serious Oscar consideration. No over-the-top trademark Dreyfuss moments here. He is superb lurking in the shadows and lording over a map of oil wells in the Middle East.
I only had two disappoinments walking out of the theater. One was the limited scope of the movie. There's no mention of what history will really recall about the Bush presidency: the questions surrounding the 2000 and 2004 elections; the moment of triumph at Yankee Stadium shortly following 9/11; the Hurricane Katrina debacle. Of course, by including all that Stone would have been wide open to charges of political bias, and then this wouldn't have been a family film about a son vainly struggling to impress his father.
The other disappointment was Thandie Newton. With a vicious sneer on her face and a strange choice of enunciation, her Condi Rice is more a caricature than a portrayal. Had the movie been more overtly political or had the other supporting actors also mocked their characters, I might not have noticed. But here, Thandie was as overshadowed by the rest of the cast as has George W. Bush been overhshadowed by his father.