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Friday, October 17, 2008

W. (**1/2)


W. is no JFK, no Oliver Stone masterpiece. Not even close. Stone didn't learn his lesson from Alexander about time-jumping structures hurting his biopics. Josh Brolin's performance and impersonation of George W. Bush is Oscar worthy. Brolin is damned amazing as W. and he's surrounded by an all-star cast, caked in various degrees of makeup, portraying Dick Cheney, Donald "Rummy" Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, etc. as a grotesque Saturday Night Live-esque menagerie of lunatics and suck ups. No sympathy is offered for Cheney, Karl Rove and Rummy; none asked. Thandie Newton in her Condeleeza Rice makeup resembles a gargoyle. The most sympathetic portrayals are saved for Jeffrey Wright as Colin Powell, Elizabeth Banks as Laura Bush, and James Cromwell as George H.W. Bush, who is presented heroically as W's opposite and emotional enemy. Though peppered with entertaining moments, overall, W. is a weird, purposely-manipulative collection of events that may have been or never were. Stone mixes in famous W quotes like "misunderestimated" and "fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice... I won't be fooled again!" - all dreamed up by Stone and his writer to explain away who the sitting President is. But to what end? Brolin's W never comes off as sympathetic or likeable. Perhaps he's never meant to. I know that by January 2009, I'll be glad to be rid of the real life W.