The Taser's Edge

W. (dir. Oliver Stone; 2008)
March 5, 2011, 5:24 pm
Filed under: Art, Film, History, In the News, Life, Music, Politics, Prayer, Religion, Video | Tags: , , , ,

For some reason, since last Friday, I’ve seen three Oliver Stone films–Wall Street, Platoon, and W. I think some American collective consciousness prompted me to watch the former two, as they both star Charlie Sheen.  Then W. was the Netflix DVD which had been sitting at our house for four weeks or so (as we almost always watch streaming–hence the first two films–or else online TV instead).

W. was easily the weakest of the three.

Josh Brolin does a good job of being the title character.  Accent, physical bearing, etc.  The guy playing Rove (Toby Jones) is the guy who played Capote in the lesser-watched Capote film, Infamous, from a couple years ago (as well as the voice of Dobby the House Elf!), so he was clearly good.  But the rest of the acting?  Richard Dreyfuss as Cheney is okay, except that he tends to sit in literal shadows and scowl with his voice all the time.  Ellen Burstyn’s talent is wasted as Barbara Bush.  Elizabeth Banks is hard to believe as the less-than-hot Laura Bush (although for me, the problem may be that Elizabeth Banks is Avery Jessup, fictional wife of Jack Donaghy, not of GW Bush).  Thandie Newton as Condoleezza Rice is the worst, however, basically a movie-length SNL-quality impersonation of Rice’s speech patterns.

Worse than this is the screenplay.  The title character’s dialogue is based around famous Bush-isms, which I find hard to believe that Bush used when talking to his wife or discussing plans for the Iraq invasion with senior advisers.  The basic 0utline of the script is a moving back and forth between two timelines, the first of Bush moving from being a Yale frat boy to finally getting his act together (but with no clear reason why), the second of the plans for the invasion of Iraq.  It’s not clear at all that this was the best way to tell this story.

All this adds up to the director’s fault.  My biggest problem may be an odd one, but here it is.  This does not feel at all like an Oliver Stone movie.  For someone who hated Bush as much as Stone vocally did, this is just boring.  If you remember JFK, Stone just made an argument for a particular conspiracy theory, and he made his argument well in movie form, whether he was totally nuts or not (and he wasn’t totally nuts).

Here, however there is nothing new, nothing particularly controversial (as hot as it gets: What if Cheney strongly shaped Bush’s presidency?  What if Rove had a place in shaping the decision to enter Iraq?  What if Bush’s understanding of Iraq was shaped by his father’s experience with the first Gulf War?), somehow nothing interesting.  A possibly interesting story, written and told with mediocrity, directed with little passion.  Feel free to skip it.  Watch Platoon or Wall Street instead.

With all that said…this still should be on all lists for the best movie trailers in history:

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[…] a month ago, it was the fourth Oliver Stone movie I had seen in ten days, and W. was the worst.  Easily.  Not that Talk Radio is brilliant, but it is good, and the acting by the star, Eric Bogosian as […]

Pingback by Talk Radio (1988; dir. Oliver Stone) « The Taser's Edge

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