Going in to W. it’s not hard to guess what you’re going to get. Oliver Stone has never been shy about his opinions. You have to respect that he’s got a point of view he’ll stand behind, although it may disagree with your own. Regardless, you’re likely going to have little interest if you don’t share his opinions, at least partially. In W., he searches to tell the biography of President George W. Bush, from his college days spent partying to his moments of deep consideration during his presidency.
Bushy (portrayed by Josh Brolin), as his friend call him, comes from a wealthy, politically involved family. His father (James Cromwell) favors his brother. Working on an oil rig is suggested to be too hard of work for him. It’s just one poor little rich boy problem after another. But while he might start out as an alcoholic who likes partying and Texas, he eventually sobers up to reality and becomes dissatisfied with his life. He pursues politics and, ultimately, becomes President of the United States of America to mixed reviews. Stone attempts to explore where he came from, how he got there and what shaped the man along the way.
Unfortunately, the film isn’t a serious biography. Or rather, it’s not serious enough. There are the obvious points where it’s just too easy not to have fun at W’s expense. Take, for instance, the famous pretzel-choking incident.
Perhaps the worst part, however, is the acting. W. runs like an SNL skit that simply won’t die. The actors offer imitations, not portrayals. The exception to this is Richard Dreyfuss whose physical transformation into Dick Cheney is spooky.
Stone is heavy-handed at times in getting his message across. In one scene, W. receives the go ahead to invade Iraq from his team. As he somberly lowers his head in prayer, the camera angle changes. It looks up at him and the circular lighting overhead resembles a halo around his head. It’s not subtle stuff.