You know, I’ve been mulling over W for a few days now and what struck me most about it was how little of it stayed with me after seeing it. Seriously, it didn’t move me at all, not in any way. I was slightly bemused by some of the points Oliver Stone got across, assuming that anyone watching wouldn’t have known already about them, or certainly thought them at one time or another. This idea that Bush, Sr. was a good egg while his corrupt and useless son was the well-intentioned bad egg.
Stone was too easy on Karl Rove. That was the weak link in the film, to my mind. Rove is no computer geek huddled in the corner with papers and numbers. He is anything but. Portraying that way was kind of interesting – geek hooks up with dumb cute guy – but it didn’t work for me and what I think/know about the Bush administration.
All of this to say that Patricia Williams over at The Daily Beast has declared Thandie Newton’s portrayal of Condoleeza Rice the best in the film:
For my money, the most interesting portrayal in W. is that of Condoleezza Rice, as played by Thandie Newton. On one hand she’s a pitch-perfect automaton; indeed, her longest speaking part is half a sentence in Russian. She dispenses facts like a braying machine, bobble-nodding a head of hyper-lacquered hair. “I agree,” she says, and “amen to that.” Ever the good church lady, she folds her body into devoutly prayerful form, on cue.
She also calls it Stone’s “cartoon rendering” and that I would definitely agree with. I think the richest character of all of them, the only one who gave their character some degree of complexity was James Cromwell as Bush, Sr. While Jeffrey Rush got to play the only “good” character, Colin Powell, I felt his portrayal was also a bit one-dimensional. Josh Brolin is so charismatic it wouldn’t matter who was playing; he would still be interesting to watch. And he is likable and charming as Bush. But when you don’t have much to work with but a director’s desire to push an agenda what kind of a person can you build? I had the sense while watching it that it was a Republican’s idea of what a Liberal director might do in telling Bush’s story. There were no true surprises and I felt that it as dumbed down quite a bit. Why? Maybe to get those ideas across to people who’d never heard them before – like the stuff about Iran and oil.
He left out Karl Rove’s dirty dealings in getting Bush elected as governor in Texas. To me, Rove’s dirty tricks are a key element in the Bush identity and presidency. You can’t really tell that story without taking a hard look at how hypocritical it was on the one hand to have Rove’s outright lies (McCain fathering a black child) and then on the other to have this born-again disposition. Perhaps we are to bring this knowledge to our viewing. I just felt that Rove was left out of it too much.