DIRECTOR: Oliver Stone
Oliver Stone has had a checkered career path, certainly from my perspective. He made his name with films like Salvador, which I still haven’t seen, Platoon and the anti-establishment JFK, which is still one of my Top 10 films. Let alone the banned, Natural Born Killers, which has since become available.
These are harsh films, with a very distinctive narrative structure and directorial style, which made an Oliver Stone film something to either love or hate. JFK is one of the best propaganda films that I’ve ever seen, relentlessly putting across its arguments of conspiracies to murder their President whilst never actually committing to anything. But you believe it.
Platoon is Vietnam summed up for me, and then there’s his next presidential film, Nixon, a biopic that has slipped into the ether, as I suspect that few understood it or could keep up with a very difficult nonlinear narrative. Nixon is the nearest thing to a big brother to W., but W. is a lot more intense that his 1995 epic, and much more of a post World Trade Center movie, a film which proved that Stone had finally sold out, presumably to the pressure after his near flop of Alexander.
W. follows the life of George W. Bush, charting his rise to power and his relationships with his friends and family, namely ‘Poppy’ Bush. It’s interesting at times, but in true Stone style, it is presented in a nonlinear fashion, with the grounded story being in 2003 as the Bush administration prepares its case to invade Iraq. It’s these scenes that hark back to glory days of Stone, as he postulates the true strategies behind the empire building in the middle east.
Other than that, it hard to tell whether this was a dark comedy of that the characters of these key political figures had been so well impersonated by the all-star cast, that it had just become a bit comical. Well, it certainly wasn’t high drama and the cast executed there roles brilliantly but it was the likes of James Cromwell who stood out as he DIDN’T really take off Bush Snr., he just acted the role.
In short though, it touches on events without really fleshing them out and Bush is portrayed in a strangely soft way, without taking away his perceived true persona. He is a clown and this film certainly didn’t shy away from that, but on the other hand it show’s Laura Bush as being a loving wife and possibly his only true friend, which was nice and little heart warming.
But this film was simply made to soon, considering that Bush wasn’t even out of office when this film was released. There’s still a lot to learn about the man and his mission, as well as his cabinet and their goals before you can truly commit this story to the screen. It’s this error in timing that hinders it, as there’s a not enough historical context.
But that’s not all that’s not all that is wrong here. It’s a bit messy, not completely but enough. Scrappy might be a better way of putting it. Some great performances are damaged by a less than frank screenplay, soft motives and lack of commitment and to genre. Comedy or Drama? Is it both, well it doesn’t do either particularly well, but it should hold your interest, at least for a while…