Last night as we were on our way out of the theater following a screening of W., my ladyfriend and I were asked to record an interview with a Swedish radio journalist regarding our feelings on both the movie and the actual man. Since I've apparently represented the entirety of America on the Swedish airwaves, I suppose it's appropriate now to spout my feelings to the rest of the world.

When I first became aware of the existence of W., my reaction was that it's simply far too easy to take two-plus hours' worth of shots at our still-President. How, I thought, could a comedy about a self-parody really be all that interesting? It wasn't until much later that I learned the movie had been directed by Oliver Stone, and while I'm by no means a fan of all, or possibly even most, of Stone's films I was was intrigued enough to put W. on the "will see" list.

I think it's not giving too much away to say that the movie charts the course of George W. Bush's life from his induction into a frat at Yale until just before the 2004 presidential campaign (also, the boat sinks!). Structurally, it intercuts his distant past with more recent past in an attempt to evoke resonances between events in Bush II's first term and his troubled history.

To use a term of technical film criticism jargon, my reaction to the movie was more or less 'meh'. I do give credit to Stone and screenwriter Stanley Weiser for attempting to draw Bush as a semi-real character rather than a pure caricature. What they could not overcome was the fact that George W. Bush simply isn't a very interesting man.

So Bush is an alcoholic, privileged rich boy who's had everything handed to him his whole life and suffers from extreme Daddy Issues? Gee, that's fresh and compelling. And how do you draw an audience into the inner life of a guy who pretty clearly lacks one? The closest we get is visualization of Bush's "happy place": being all alone on the field at the empty Texas Rangers stadium.

Far too many scenes build to, essentially, punchlines consisting of well-known Bushisms with which we are all too familiar. There's an overall lack of drama stemming from the audience's foreknowledge of every single event that's going to happen. This, of course, is an issue with any biopic or historical fiction, but what one generally hopes for is interesting characters and an evocation of the tension those characters felt during the events in question. In W., the Grand Events are generally dispensed with via stock (and/or artfully altered) news footage after which we are treated to dramatizations of conversations had by the Big Players Involved. Maybe the revelation of Dick Cheney's grand worldview of American Empire is supposed to be shocking but, really, how can it be at this stage?

Speaking of said players, I must give credit for both best performance and most interesting characterization in W. to Jeffrey Wright for his portrayal of Gen. Colin Powell. Making Powell the sympathetic character in the Bush administration was most likely a gimme for Stone and Co., but it does work. Conversely, Thandie Newton's Condoleezza Rice is simply a silly cartoon. Elizabeth Banks's Laura Bush is boring as hell, but then again so is Laura Bush. Richard Dreyfuss is excellent as Dick Cheney and deserves praise for a relatively subtle performance given his source material.

Swedish Radio wanted my opinion on how W. was likely to affect the Bush legacy. I told them that Bush's legacy was written long before this film, and that even without it Bush will be remembered at best as a President who not only failed in everything he attempted to do (unless the plan was to create a state of perpetual war and chaos, which is entirely likely), but diminished the power and stature of the United States to such a degree that American hegemony over world affairs is likely over forever.

If that latter point is true perhaps I should be grateful to W.

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