A Film as Flawed as the Man It Portrays. Likeable Bumbler: Josh Brolin as George Bush in W

Daily Mail (London), November 7, 2008 | Go to article overview

A Film as Flawed as the Man It Portrays. Likeable Bumbler: Josh Brolin as George Bush in W


Byline: Chris Tookey

W. (15)

Verdict: Flawed biopic of the current President **

THE first thing to say about this biopic of the outgoing 43rd President is that it contains some marvellous performances none better than Josh Brolin's. He takes pains to discover within the muchmaligned George W. Bush the qualities which brought him success: his likeability, his 'people skills' and his weirdly unfounded self-confidence.

Brolin doesn't just mimic his mannerisms; he inhabits his personality, and even when the screenplay is set on showing us Bush at his most inarticulate, ungrammatical and nonsensical, Brolin endows him with pathos. He seems like an honest, idealistic man trying to do his not-very-good best.

This may not be the whole truth about the man, but it carries conviction and could earn this late-developing actor an Oscar nomination.

There are also memorable caricatures. Toby Jones excels as Karl Rove, Bush's spin-doctor, constantly exasperated by Dubya's weaknesses but also aware of his strengths especially his charm, when contrasted with Rove's own nerdiness.

Richard Dreyfuss makes a memorably creepy Dick Cheney, whom the film treats as the Dr Evil of the piece, representing both the sinister interests of the oil industry and the determination of American Intelligence to use torture. He's the ventriloquist, with Bush as his dummy. .

The Vice President may be appalled at how melodramatically his character is painted, but pleasantly surprised to see how much power the Left imagines he wields.

Three other characters are equally well played. Elizabeth Banks makes Laura Bush sympathetically loyal to her beleaguered husband.

Jeffrey Wright is impressive as Colin Powell, a straightforward military man who finds himself out-manoeuvred by politicians into saying things for which there is no military evidence.

James Cromwell make George Bush Sr an austere, judgmental but honourable man, an authority figure for his son both to rebel against and to dream of pleasing.

Many of Stone's movies have been built around father-son conflict, and W. is his most openly Oedipal yet. Stone even blames even the invasion of Iraq on Dubya's need to show that Dad was wrong in not finishing off Saddam Hussein when he had the chance at the end of the Gulf War. That seems a rather simplistic analysis, and to back it up Stone and screenwriter Stanley Weiser resort to fictitious quotes and that old Stone standby, dream sequences.

As in Nixon, Wall Street and Alexander, Stone endows his leading character with his own mixed feelings about his father, Lou Stone, an extremely wealthy, cast as W. Bush and prosthetics but at the minute abrasively conservative stockbroker who ended up divorced and nearly bankrupt.

Like Dubya, Stone went to Yale; unlike Bush, Stone dropped out. Like Dubya, Stone battled with addiction, though Bush's was to alcohol and Stone's was to cocaine. Like Dubya, Stone isn't slick in interviews; he gets stuck in his own thoughts, and finds it difficult to express himself. …

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