Skip Nav
Game of Thrones
34 Bombshells in the Game of Thrones Season 7 Premiere
Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones: HBO Confirmed Jon Snow's Father, Even If the Show Hasn't Yet
Game of Thrones
3 Ways Game of Thrones Is Telling Us The Wall Is Coming Down This Season

W Movie Review, Josh Brolin, Oliver Stone

W: Too Little, Too Soon

No matter your political persuasion, most can agree that the presidency of George W. Bush is concluding on a low and solemn note, the full consequences of his years in office still unknown. There is no doubt he is one of the most controversial figures of a generation, and his life will provide vast and fertile ground for dramatists someday. Which brings me to my basic conclusion that someday is not here yet, and Oliver Stone's new biopic of the president, W, is a half-baked attempt at telling Bush's story and it suffers from the fact that the real-life tale is far from being over.

There is so much to think about when it comes to the life of Dubya. His transformation from a spoiled ne'er-do-well to the leader of the free world is good stuff. Because of the timing and the subject, it's the kind of biography that requires a director to have a point of view and a nuanced storytelling ability. Stone brings neither to his movie and the effect is a shallow psychoanalysis of Bush that too often borders on absurd and darkly funny in ways that I'm not sure was intentional. There is one thing that nearly salvages the whole ordeal, though, and that's Josh Brolin. To see why, just


The truth is we don't know how this story ends yet, but most of us do know how it all began: Jr. started out as a silver-spooner born into a politically influential family. He aimlessly boozed his way through life without much consequence until he got married and religious and decided to make something of himself. All of this is more or less depicted in the movie.

The overarching Freudian theme is how Bush Jr. is forever wilting under the weighty expectations of his father (played nicely by James Cromwell), who has invested the family's political legacy in brother Jeb anyway. Basically the movie's premise is that Dubya needed a hug from his dad, and had he gotten that kind of love and support he may have ended up elsewhere (maybe he would have been baseball commissioner, which is suggested to have been his first love). But it was his drive to prove everyone wrong — along with a sign from God — that drove him to be president, despite being emotionally undermined by his dad along the way.

It's the kind of flimsy pop psychology that reminds me of an Oprah episode — and that's not even the biggest problem with it. The real laughs (intended or not) come from the cast assembled to portray Bush's cabinet, including: Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney, Thandie Newton as Condoleezza Rice, Scott Glenn as Donald Rumsfeld and Jeffrey Wright as Colin Powell. Whether coming up with the sound bite "Axis of Evil" in the oval office or planning world domination in a dark, cave-like war room a la Dr. Strangelove, the film lurches between eerily familiar and downright parody. Newton's portrayal as Rice is particularly jarring and quite bizarre. Sometimes the movie feels like an ambitious idea that just misses the mark and other times it seems like the rush job it is.

Interestingly enough, Brolin is able to pull a tremendous performance out of this exercise in wacky (and glib) history-telling. His interpretation of the character is a straightforward portrayal that never turns into a joke, despite the well-known (and often mocked) mannerisms of the president. It would be a performance to gush over under any circumstances, but the fact that he shines while playing a guy that comedians have had a field day impersonating for eight years is quite the accomplishment. I have a renewed respect for Brolin's talent, that's for sure.

Actors like Brolin, Elizabeth Banks (as Laura Bush) and Dreyfuss give this movie some life and I found it bizarrely riveting to watch the strange way these events are captured in the film. However, none of this makes up for the fact that it all feels slap-dashed and unfinished. Because Stone has everything and nothing to say about George W. Bush, the effect is just a surreal slog through a sad piece of our nation's history, the timing of which makes it not just a so-so movie, but a kick in the gut while the nation's already down.

Photos courtesy of Lionsgate

Join The Conversation
esmallass esmallass 8 years
I saw this movie twice, almost finished it both times. It was about W's eating and drinking constantly. yes?
cdelaney cdelaney 8 years
My husband and i saw this movie last Sunday. This movie was hyped up to be hyper-critical and controversial, similar to Stone's other presidential commentaries. However, it seemed to have a sympathetic undertone to it. I cannot specifically explain it, but suffice to say, it was much different than I expected. I was actually disappointed. I know that the film was intentionally released around this time for a reason, but it seemed to be composed hastily as if an afterthought and it showed.
lexichloe lexichloe 8 years
I will not go see this movie. First, b/c it looks stupid, second, b/c it comes out during election time. A futile attempt to sway votes, and therefore not worth my time.
mayeb63 mayeb63 8 years
When I read that the movie didn't even cover 9/11 nor the close election, I had no desire to see it. How can you make a movie about George W's presidency and not cover 9/11??? I don't see myself even renting this one.
Liz4aker Liz4aker 8 years
Regardless of personal politics, I think the timing is disrespectful. Rushing the production just to have it come out before the election and Bush leaving office doesn't do anyone a service. Delaying the movie would have fixed many of the technical problems reviewers have discussed and allow the public to judge the movie on its own merit, not use it as a political soapbox. It is just a marketing ploy to try to make more at the box office.
snowysakurasky snowysakurasky 8 years
oh, i'm disapointed, i was really looking forward to it, despite the fact that the previews were not that interesting.
gitsie123 gitsie123 8 years
jessiebanana, I have read some really great things about this movie so I wouldn't necessarily rely on this review! "Nobody knows what happened behind closed doors, in my opinion this movie is a joke" Ugh, the same can be said about any movie you see that is based on actual events. I think we know more about the Bush presidency than the life of Henry VIII. You wouldn't be so judgemental about seeing a movie about Anne Boleyn would you? I am actually looking forward to a creative insight about the eight years of the Bush Presidency.
amloveaffair amloveaffair 8 years
Maddie, I kind of agree. Especially when Oliver stone or anyone in the movie was asked if the president would like it, they all said no.
maddielove maddielove 8 years
I am not a republican nor do I agree with everything that George Bush did throughout his presidency. I saw the preview of this movie and I must say I find it disrespectful. Nobody knows what happened behind closed doors, in my opinion this movie is a joke
pinklady8287 pinklady8287 8 years
I wanna see this movie. It looks interesting.
amloveaffair amloveaffair 8 years
I didn't read all of your review because I really don't care about this movie in any way. I love Josh Brolin though but I hate Oliver Stone. I've seen him on a few talk shows and he just seems like a jerk. I agree it's too soon to do this movie as well.
Linda-McP Linda-McP 8 years
It's likely that I'll see this movie eventually, but I'm just not interested right now. The release seems to be premature, but the cast is outstanding and from everything I've read, Josh Brolin does a great job as W. Buzz, thanks for the honest review.
fleurfairy fleurfairy 8 years
I admitted above that Bush has made many mistakes and has failed at being an effective President. However, Oliver Stone doesn't exactly break new ground with this movie. And I don't see him putting his time and money to good use by offering any solutions to the mess our country is in right now. That's my opinion.
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
well i still think that i will be among the masses going to check this one out. i have to admit that i wasn't sold on it for the longest cause i don't care much about his story, but there's been so much hype around this that i feel like i have to go now.
Sugar-Cane Sugar-Cane 8 years
Great review buzz. It is always good to get that reminder: as a screenwriter or director, if you don't have a point of view or something unique to say about a subject, don't say anything at all. I also agree with folks on the timing aspect. Since the presidency isn't over (although we are all counting down the days!) it is hard to look at it with much perspective. If Stone would have waited a few years, he could have also included the recent events related to the economy and how Bush and the Republicans hands off approach to Wall Street has caused such a mess for working and middle class Americans. This country is a great country, but it is important to revisit a president's failings, so that as a country we don't make the same mistakes again. Fleurfairy, don't you see any parallels in the mistakes that Bush has made to blunders of the past? Vietnam = Iraq (we can't win). The Savings and Loan Crisis = The Current Depression (deregulation caused banks to take too much risk, causing Americans to lose a huge percentage of their life savings). History has lessons for the future.
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
Good review Buzz, thanks for keeping your personal politics out of it! :)
ehadams ehadams 8 years
Like someone else said, I've had enough of our President for the last 8 years and don't want to spend another 2 hours thinking about him. I've already voted and am ready to move on to the next President. If this had come out in a few years from now, when we've all gotten some perspective and seen how things panned out, then I might be more interested in this.
Jessiebanana Jessiebanana 8 years
I was really interested in seeing this movie and I probably will anyway, but if this movie is as you describe then I'm sure to be disappointed. Anyways, I really like the depth of your review Buzzsugar. I might have to pop over here for more movie reviews in the future.
Jessiebanana Jessiebanana 8 years
"I don't know why people like Oliver Stone find it necessary to keep re-visiting this administration's failings. Do they have anything else/better to talk about? Would they rather have a dictator (like Castro) or a corrupt monarch(like Henry VIII) or a murderer (like Hitler) as their leader?" Fleurfairy you cannot justify an extreme comment like that. So if we aren't satisfied or if we are outraged by Bush's administration than we should shut up and be lucky that we don't have a dictator running the country? Are you...I won't go there, but what I will say is that we have already fought for democracy, so lets get rid of this dictator talk BS. Having high standards of your government is a good thing. If we didn't it would show we didn't care about the well being and momentum of our country. Bush's failure to rise to those expectations is not just cause for us to roll over and be happy that we are better than some. Thats like telling your daughter its ok if the boys at school slap your butt and sexually harass you, you should be lucky you don't live in a country where acceptance of rape is the norm for stepping outside without a man's protection...geeze.
lickety-split lickety-split 8 years
this movie is offensive to me because it's disrespectful to so many people and their private moments. we don't really know what happened behind closed doors. stone seems to like telling particularly uncomfortable stories that portray america in an unflattering light.
fleurfairy fleurfairy 8 years
I am not a hardcore Republican by any means but George W. is a decent and good person, outside of being president, which he has obviously failed at. I don't know why people like Oliver Stone find it necessary to keep re-visiting this administration's failings. Do they have anything else/better to talk about? Would they rather have a dictator (like Castro) or a corrupt monarch(like Henry VIII) or a murderer (like Hitler) as their leader? I think America and these liberal moviemakers needs to stop pointing fingers and figure out real solutions to the problems. Like how about for starters we stop pumping money into these directors' pockets? And Americans also need to wake up and realize how lucky we are to live in this country.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 8 years
I dunno, I feel like I've already lived 8 years of this ridiculous presidency, and 2 more hours might just be too much for me. I might watch it when it comes out on video, but I might just ignore it all together.
bethiesny bethiesny 8 years
I saw Josh Brolin perform on stage back in the early 90s, and I knew then that he was a phenomenally talented actor. I am so happy he's finally getting the parts and recognition he deserves!
LaLaLaurie06 LaLaLaurie06 8 years
This is an interesting review. I must say, I'm very intrigued by this movie and will probably go out and see it in theaters.
Josh Brolin and Kathryn Boyd Are Married!
Kathryn Boyd's Wedding Dress
Who Plays Cable in Deadpool 2?
Josh Brolin Posts a Naked Photo of Himself on Instagram
From Our Partners
Latest Entertainment
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds