Mike Smith's official PCR review of the new Oliver Stone film, W, is posted and is recommended reading to get story details before you go further. I saw the film at a sneak preview Tuesday of this week accompanied by Lisa Ciurro, and, while I don't intend to compete with Mike's astute observations of the film, I do have a few comments of my own regarding this remarkable movie.
Since the "plot" of the film is based on documented real-life events, there are really no spoilers, but in 100 words or less, would go a little something like this: The ne'er-do-well son of a rich political family bumbles and fumbles his way through a life of frat-partying and short-term jobs until, at mid-life, he is seized by the inspiration to go into politics, to the disbelief of his family and friends. Despite a dysfunctional relationship with his father, but with a ruthless ambition and an urgent need to prove himself, he succeeds in becoming governor of Texas and, eventually, president of the United States. However, the inescapable feeling that he never quite made daddy proud continues to haunt him.
First of all, if Josh Brolin does not get some sort of Oscar nod for his portrayal of George W. Bush, it'll be a crime. Brolin channels and inhabits the character completely. His vocal impression of Bush is virtually indistinguishable from the real thing! Close your eyes and you're listening to Dubya. At a passing glance, he certainly looks the part as well. Body language, stride, everything, spot on.
In fact, nearly all the characterizations in the movie are eerily close to the real thing. The make-up effects (Hollywood legend Matt Mungle among the contributors) are outstanding. Besides Brolin's Bush, Richard Dreyfuss' Dick Cheney, Elizabeth Banks' Laura Bush, and Jeffrey Wright's Gen. Colin Powell are particularly instantly recognizable.
What Stone gets right he gets really right, but I say "nearly all" because, strangely, there are some inconsistencies that raise even my liberal eyebrows, most notably, in the characters of Condoleeza Rice, Karl Rove, and George Herbert Walker Bush.
Condoleeza Rice (the talented Thandie Newton) is such a cartoon character here as to cause audience laughter whenever she spoke. Her bleating, nasally, whiny tone came off more as an SNL skit parody than the real thing could ever be (I agree with Mike Smith here). Despite past talk of Rice's possibility as a presidential candidate, I've always observed her more as a follower, not a leader. Director Stone must agree, because in W, she is, at best, not much more than Bush's personal secretary, at worst, a groveling toady!
Similarly with Karl Rove (Toby Jones), Bush's personal advisor. Despite the controversy, I recall his real-life persona as a little more imposing than the almost muppet-ish character appearing in the film.
The case of the amazing James Cromwell as George Herbert Walker Bush is an interesting one. An Academy Award-nominee, there was never any doubt he could tackle the part, but is the only cast member where no special prosthetics, make-up or wigs were employed to even try and make him look like anyone other than James Cromwell. Same with vocal affectations -- none. OK, I wasn't expecting a reprise of Dana Carvey's hilarious Bush Sr. impression necessarily, but something. However, that said, it is James Cromwell, of course, and his performance is solid enough to make you forget he doesn't look or sound anything like G.H.W. Bush!
Other notable performances include Stacy Keach as Dubya's religious mentor from A. A. meetings, and Ellen Burstyn as the feisty Barbara Bush.
Among Dubya's passions is baseball, and there are numerous baseball analogies used throughout the movie, mostly in dream sequences. One used near the end seems to signify that, after all the dust has settled, George W. Bush may not ever be quite sure he ever hit the grand slam.
I've been asked if I'd consider this to be a "Bush-bashing" movie. I'd have to say yes and no. For someone anti-Bush (like myself), it doesn't bash, it merely depicts his warts-and-all life. For someone pro-Bush, "bashing" likely wouldn't be strong enough a word.
Edie Adams Dead At 81
Tony Award-winning actress, singer, comedienne Edie Adams, wife of the late TV pioneer Ernie Kovacs, has died from complications of cancer and pneumonia at the age of 81. Look for this week's Mike's Rant update for more on this historical lady.