W. is the story of the prodigal son that had no idea what he wanted to do with his life and just happened into politics. President-obsessed director Oliver Stone (JFK, Nixon) follows the at times charming and frequently dimwitted George W. Bush, played by Josh Brolin, from the hallowed halls of Yale to beleaguered commander in chief. W. is not quite the hatchet job some may have expected (or hoped for). It is instead a measured and thoughtful meditation on a leader who, this terrific movie believes, inadvertently made the world as roiling as his soul.
This biopic is entertaining, empathetic and peppered with the “Bushisms” that we’ve come to love from our 43rd president. Throughout the movie we see “Junior” work to get the approval and attention of his father, Bush Sr., and daddy issues are a main theme of this movie. Even the most cynical liberals may at times find themselves feeling sorry for the hapless W.
The film is also armed with great lines from screenwriter Stanley Weiser, such as when straight arrow George Sr. (James Cromwell) admonishes his screw-up son: “Who do you think you are? A Kennedy? You’re a Bush!” Stone surrounds Brolin with a stunning cast of supporting players, such as the particularly good Elizabeth Banks as George’s librarian wife, Laura. Also featured are Jeffery Wright as Colin Powell, Ellen Burstyn as Barbara Bush and Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney.
However, the movie does have its occasional weak spots. With so many famous people playing other famous people with varying degrees of success, the movie at times feels like an SNL skit without the jokes. At times the tone shifts to broad satire, and Thandie Newton seems to be impersonating Condoleezza Rice rather than illuminating her character.
Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars