Monday, November 24, 2008

Film Review: W. (2008, Oliver Stone)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 129 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Josh Brolin, Ellen Burstyn, James Cromwell, Richard Dreyfuss, Scott Glenn, Toby Jones, Stacy Keach, Noah Wyle, Elizabeth Banks, Bruce McGill, Jeffrey Wright, Thandie Newton, Marley Shelton.
Tag-line: "Get ready."
Best one-liner(s): "There's an old saying in Tennessee- I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee- that says, fool me once, shame on- shame on you. Fool me- you can't get fooled again." (also said by the actual President Bush, Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002)

"Mr. President, what place do you think you will have in history?" "History?... In history we'll all be dead!" The road to hell is paved with good intentions, sustained by voraciously-devoured turkey club sandwiches and bowls of pretzels, and washed down with buckets of Jack Daniels (this film has got to set a record for Jack Daniels consumption) and eventually a bottle of O'Douls. Oliver Stone's W. is equal parts picaresque, grotesque, Great American Tragedy, and farce. It's just a pity that it had to play out on the world's stage with all of us as spectators and the fates of nations hanging in the balance. Josh Brolin is magnificent as W., and deserves all the accolades he receives for his tragicomic portrayal. Not receiving as much praise, but equally deserving, are Scott Glenn (who plays Rumsfeld as an unhinged, dazed sociopathic old man), Stacy Keach (as Bush's spiritual mentor and head of a burgeoning Texas megachurch), and Ellen Burstyn (as the equally bullheaded but slightly classier Barbara Bush). W. is defined by his food: removing the lettuce from his sandwich during Cheney's E. coli metaphor about WMDs, choking on a pretzel and nearly losing his life, chewing with his mouth open during most first impressions, and giving up pecan pie as a sacrifice for America's bravest giving up their lives. Stone's W. is not depicted as an evil man; instead he's an easily frustrated good old boy who was well-suited for a life of eating snacks, watching the game, playing fetch with dogs, and going on vacation- but not for holding the reins of a nation. Stone takes a bold first step in analyzing a man whom history will have no choice but to condemn, and there's hardly a thing about it that rings false- a true achievement for a film that's largely conjecture.

-Sean Gill

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