Todd McCarthy delivers the first mainstream review.
“…considering Stone’s reputation and Bush’s vast unpopularity, a relatively even-handed, restrained treatment of recent politics. For a film that could have been either a scorching satire or an outright tragedy, “W.” is, if anything, overly conventional, especially stylistically. The picture possesses dramatic and entertainment value, but beyond serious filmgoers curious about how Stone deals with all this president’s men and women, it’s questionable how wide a public will pony up to immerse itself in a story that still lacks an ending.
McCarthy several times mentions the paper-thin gloss on material that might’ve benefited from a few years of perspective — or at least a few more months of pre-production refinement. Indicating W. is “unable to achieve any aims higher than as a sort of engaging pop-history pageant and amateur, if not inapt, psychological evaluation,” the review seems to suggest a missed opportunity, and confirming what many of us feared, “pic thus enters TV territory, to its detriment.”
No visual correlatives or subjective projections of mood or attitude are offered, as they have been in past Stone films. Dominating are borderline distorted closeups, especially of Brolin, along with shadowy lighting and generally lackluster lensing. Some of the song choices are downright sophomoric in their too-obvious irony.
Awards potential? The same names you guys picked up on weeks ago from the trailers; expect to see some of these actors show up as obligatory seat-filler fodder for the Golden Globes:
Along with Brolin, top performances/ impersonations are provided by Banks, whose Laura Bush goes a long way toward clarifying the close marital bond; Cromwell, who may not be a dead ringer for George H.W. Bush but delivers the full intended force of his character in several key scenes; Toby Jones as the ever-present Rove; and, despite hints at editorializing, Dreyfuss, who may only present a caricature of Cheney but seems so physically and attitudinally on the money that he’s instantly recognizable and acceptable.
Still reserving judgment, but I’d like to respectfully recommend Stone consider giving the guy who assembled the most recent trailer a shot a editing his next film.