Oliver Stone’s W offers a glimpse into the life of George W. Bush; more specifically, snippets of his life from his college days up to the middle of his first term as president. The storytelling of the film is told in non-chronological order with jumps forward and back in time throughout the entire movie. It takes a little getting used to, but once it sinks in as to what’s going on the movie gets easier to digest. Throughout the non-linear timeline there’s an underlying theme played out through W hanging out in an empty baseball stadium by himself with an imaginary announcer, crowd and game being played out in his head. This imagination game serves as the metaphor for the different time periods that are showcased during the course of W.
As I mentioned, things jump around a bit so while there’s not just one central thing to focus on, you do get a glimpse into some of W’s more historic moments. I’ve read a bit about Bush Jr. and found it interesting to see some of his more infamous moments brought to life. Among the moments brought to the big screen include Bush’s days at Yale when he first joins his fraternity as well as his days at Harvard discussing how he’s going to run for congress during a poker game. George Jr. spent some time bouncing from one job to another (all seemingly arranged by George Sr. who gets continually frustrated by Jr.’s inability to hold down a job) which is peppered across different points early in the film. We also get to witness some of the battles W fought with his drinking problems and his famous anger.
On and off from the start to finish of the film are featured moments in the white house during W’s meetings with the likes of Dick Cheyney, Condolezza Rice, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell among others. These meetings portray him as a bit of a tyrant being subtlety manipulated by those around him while still acting like he’s in charge. Most of the focus of the meetings center on Iraq and what’s going to become Iraq II. The exchanges and power struggles are interesting to watch, especially with Colin Powell as he seems to be the only person realistic about what’s going on and the only one who’s not bending over backwards to kiss the butt of W or manipulate him in some fashion. Karl Rove and Dick Cheyney seem to be the people running the show while W gleefully thinks he’s steering the ship with Rumsfeld along for the ride trying to justify his role as part of the white house staff.
While a bit challenging to follow at times, the overall storytelling done by Oliver Stone is put together effectively. Stone’s style and investigative tenacity lend themselves well to this project as they did in JFK. I always liked Stone’s directing style and while his work is recognizable visually, it’s fresh in each of his films.
The acting is excellent and the cast is made up of really strong actors including Josh Brolin as W, Richard Dreyfuss playing Dick Cheyney, Scott Glenn portraying Rumsfeld and an almost unrecognizable Thandie Newton filling the shoes of Condi Rice. The cast is rounded out by James Cromwell (playing Bush Sr. who some think he should’ve gotten an Oscar nod for), Bruce McGill (George Tenet), Jeffrey Wright (Colin Powell), Stacey Keach (Rev. Earle Hudd), Ellen Burstyn (Barbara Bush) and Elizabeth Banks as Laura Bush. There are other notable actors in the lineup but too many to mention. Suffice it to say that there’s not a weak link in the chain and all the actors put in compelling performances especially Josh Brolin, Richard Dreyfuss, Thandie Newton, Scott Glenn and James Cromwell.
Even though Oliver Stone does lend an interesting visual element to W as he does with all his films, the meat of this project lies within the intellectual exchanges between the characters (or lack thereof with Bush) and the performances with the actors. If you have an interest in politics and how things play out behind close doors in the white house (fictional or otherwise), W is worth a look.
reviewed by Sean McKnight
Released in 2008, Role Models follows the antics of Wheeler (Seann William Scott) and Danny Donahue played by Paul Rudd. Both men work together for an energy drink called Minotaur and go to local high schools to tell kids why they shouldn’t do drugs and why they should drink Minotaur. Rudd’s character has fallen into a rut and starts to question his life during a fit of depression while Wheeler continues to live a care free party dude lifestyle.
Eventually, Danny reaches his breaking point when his girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks) dumps him and he starts to realize that his life is just not going anywhere. Once he loses it, he takes out his frustrations at one of the high school speaking engagements and runs the company vehicle (a truck in the shape of a minotaur) into the school statue. Once the duo is caught they are given the choice of community service or jail, they opt for the service of course which lands them in an organization similar to Big Brother/Sister working with socially challenged kids.
The writing is your typical faire with a feel good ending, but hey for a film like this that’s what you want anyway. There’s a lot of fun moments along the way, most of the time when the adult characters are interacting with the kids as both kids and adults turn in some good performances. The only thing that got on my nerves was Paul Rudd’s character being a bit too dark and depressing at times. I understand that that’s who is character is, but it’s played up a bit much I thought and just starts to become a downer. If the film was a bit more serious and darker to begin with, I could see this, but given that the film is a bit more light hearted than that, the overly depressed vibe of Rudd’s character seems a bit too much of a contrast given the overall feel of the film.
The directing is ok, average, nothing special or particularly bad with the exception of the guidance given to Paul Rudd’s performance. The performances from the actors overall are good, again pretty average with the exception of Jane Lynch who always adds flair and style to any role she’s given, this film being no exception with her as the hardcore, slightly twisted organizer of the youth group.
Check it out if you happen to catch on the tube or rent the DVD if you’re looking to stock up on your Netflix queue.
reviewed by Sean McKnight