I seem to be a little obsessed with politics lately (I can't think why) and when the new Oliver Stone movie, W, opened in town today, I had to go see it.
I'm not a big Oliver Stone fan, at least not of the paranoid conspiracy fantasies he has been making the last 20 years. I enjoyed Platoon, Wall Street, Born on the Fourth of July and Talk Radio, the last of which came out in 1989, but not much since then. W is not a paranoid delusional fantasy, it might be more interesting if it were.
"Is this movie supposed to be a comedy or what?" The Wife asked half way through. I usually don't like to be interrupted during movies, but a little conversation was a welcome diversion as I kept looking at my watch and wondering how much longer this was going to last. One of the problems of the movie is that it couldn't decide if it was a comedy or what. I think Stone intended it to be tragic, as W lands in a job for which he is not qualified and thousands of people wind up getting killed as a result, but there are also comedic aspects. Michael Moore would have done a much better job of using comedy to leaven the tragedy of W's career.
Another problem (besides a director whose best work was 20 years ago) is that the story it is trying to tell happened too recently. Most of us have seen the story on television as it unfolded and there are no new insights that Stone brings to us. Give it another few years; let our memories get fuzzy about what actually happened and then do a creative retelling of it.
Josh Brolin does a credible job of playing W, but it is Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney who steals the show. In fact, I would not be at all surprised to see Dreyfuss get an Academy nomination as Best Supporting Actor. On the other hand, Thandie Newton is made up to look like a twin of Condolezza Rice, but as The Wife said, "She can't act." She sounded like she was reading a script.
Other reviewers have commented that Stone avoids the temptation of demonizing W, and even makes him into a somewhat sympathetic character. I didn't find the W of the movie anymore sympathetic than the real W, whose job in office has three-fourths of the country disapproving.
It is odd that the movie has come out three weeks before the election, and although John McCain (or an actor playing him) is shown briefly in several crowd shots, I do not think there is anything in the movie that would sway anyone's vote, one way or the other. Senator McCain rightly pointed out at the debate the other night that he is not George W. Bush, and he is not, but he did support Bush's policies 95 percent of the time, and it is the policies that have hurt this country so badly.
I wound up giving the movie my average rating of three out of five stars because although it is not as good as I had hoped, it is not as bad as I had feared.