Friday, October 17, 2008

Scott McClellan reviews Oliver Stone's "W"

In The Daily Beast:
At best, Stone’s interpretation is educated conjecture. He takes plenty of liberties with the facts, a story-telling strategy he considers justified in order to get at larger truths in a 2-hour movie. As a result, the real-life complexities of the characters and events are left unexplored.
Overall, as should be expected from the high-caliber cast, the acting was fabulous. Brolin rightly deserves kudos for his portrayal of Bush. He has the swagger down, and does a decent job on Bush’s voice and gestures. The president’s eating habits were overdone, but not completely off the mark (you will know what I mean when you see the movie). ... The most unflattering portrayal was that of Condi Rice, caricatured by Thandie Newton as a mere yes–woman, which is excessively denigrating but not entirely without basis.

There are a number of inaccuracies in the movie, some grounded in Stone’s satirical impulse. (Maybe I was too close to the real-life situations to laugh at those moments.)


Stone also exaggerates in painting Bush as a simple-minded born-again Christian. President Bush is a man of deep personal faith who may have felt a calling to enter politics, but he never came across to me as presuming to know God’s will. Nor does he consider himself an evangelical Christian or fundamentalist Baptist (though along with Rove he placed a high priority on keeping that wing of the Republican base happy).

I also felt it was grossly unfair to portray Bush as merrily oblivious and somewhat smug when visiting wounded soldiers at a military hospital. Having been at President Bush’s side during such visits, I know they were somber, emotionally-draining moments for him. They were also probably the only time I ever noticed self-doubt creep into his eyes, however fleetingly, as he confronted the terrible human costs of his misguided, instinctive decision to rush into an unnecessary war.

But W. is a drama, not an historical documentary. Stone tries to play it fairly straight. Even if he misses the mark at times, he deserves credit for the glimpses of inner truth he provides, which can only be instructive, especially as we prepare to elect a new president.

My guess is the most vocal Bush critics will view Stone’s account as too soft on Bush and his top advisers, while Bush’s chief advocates will ignore and dismiss it. But I think the average Joe just might find it entertaining and thought-provoking. I won’t go as far as to borrow a line from Bush 43 and say, “Heck of a job, Stonie.” But I will borrow one from Bush 41 and say, “It’s good, not bad.”

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