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Movie Review: W. Isn’t So Bad At All

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Sometime ago when I heard that Oliver Stone was making a biopic of President George W. Bush, something just didn't feel right inside my stomach. After all, what else can you expect from the director extraordinaire who brought us Nixon, JFK and Platoon, among other films? Then maybe I thought he had a conspiracy-theory thing going on, which would somehow shed light on what really happened these past eight years.

Then I read initial reviews about the film — it was indeed a true-to-life biopic, so how could one get serious with it? Turns out, there are plenty of reasons.

History will probably judge George W. Bush as one of the worst presidents ever, and, at best, one of the most controversial. Stone however, doesn't want us to have any more of that. We know it. We've been seeing the news, reading the papers, and watching all the comedians. Instead, he gives us George W., the frat/party boy, the alcoholic turned born-again Christian, the man who for the most part of his life stood in his father’s shadow.

As President, George W. is on the eve of the Iraq War. The movie then goes back to his initiation rites as a frat man at Yale. Throughout the whole film this back-and-forth device works wonderfully to emphasize just what exactly he might have been thinking, or what could have influenced his thinking, when he started the decision making path into the war.

Josh Brolin is in fine form as the title character. Though not exactly dead-on humorous as, say, Will Ferrell, Brolin is able to capture the mixture of innocence, swagger, and phallic confidence that the real George W. so often displays. The ensemble cast includes Thandie Newton as Condoleezza Rice, Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney, and Scott Glenn as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. All were great but not exceptional, James Cromwell included, as George H. W. Bush.

This is not a movie you would like to treasure in the same vein as Nixon or Born On The Fourth of July, but it definitely showcases, with alarming frankness, the state of affairs in the White House during that period, and with some tenderness, the struggles that George W. did have to go through in life before becoming President.

No doubts however. Stone did not make a movie to explain or defend President George W. Bush. He cleverly uses his life story as a backdrop to show audiences that he too, can make an ordinary, clever movie. Try to catch this in theaters.

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About Clarence Yu