Oliver Stone directs this star-laden biopic about America's 43rd president. Josh Brolin (NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN) stars as the president of the title; Elizabeth Banks plays his wife, Laura. James Cromwell and Ellen Burstyn costar as the elder Bushes.,
One might expect sparks to fly when one of America's most controversial filmmakers decides to take on America's most controversial president. Oliver Stone's biopic of George W. Bush, however, is rather gentle on the president; and, while the film clearly paints Dubya as a fool and makes no excuses for the debacle that has been his presidency, it does offer a surprisingly sympathetic character study of the man behind the chaos.
Told in a series of flashbacks that play as his greatest hits, W. portrays Bush (Josh Brolin) as a privileged yet decidedly lost soul. Stone makes light humor of the president's frequent malapropisms and complete lack of intellectual curiosity, but he places the dramatic focus on Bush's desperate attempts to get respect and acceptance from his father.
While Bush's backstory and psychology make for relatively interesting drama, his place in history has nonetheless been formed entirely by his eight years as president. In this area, Stone's film offers almost nothing new; however, what W. lacks in revelations and insight, it makes up for with some wonderful performances.
The supporting cast--which includes Ellen Burstyn (as Barbara Bush), Richard Dreyfuss (as Dick Cheney), James Cromwell (George H. W. Bush), and Jeffery Wright (as Colin Powell)--all offer nuanced performances that perfectly balance impersonation with genuinely evocative acting.
Elizabeth Banks is both sympathetic and understandable as Laura Bush, presenting a woman who stands by her man not simply out of loyalty but also out of love. Brolin must also be given credit for a performance that deftly avoids parody in favor of something born from a true actor.
In the end W. is a somewhat unremarkable film, yet its very existence is shocking; in that respect, it almost perfectly mirrors George W. Bush and his rise to power.