Critic's Pick W.
Director: Oliver Stone
Screenwriter: Oliver Stone
Cast: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks, James Cromwell, Ellen Burstyn, Thandie Newton
Release Date: 2008-10-22
Rated: R
Genre: Film

Dubya. Stone. Let’s do this.

Surely, given even a moment’s consideration, it comes as little surprise that the ever-provocative director of Nixon and JFK would set his distinctive sights upon what is surely one of the most frequently discussed and scrutinized administrations in our nation’s modern history. The kicker, of course, is that he’s done it sooner rather than later; not only are the folks represented within this particular pseudo-biopic still very much alive, a few of ’em are still in office — at least for a week-and-a-half or so.

I don’t think we’ve seen that before.

Partly — yes — because that sort of thing is so hard to pull off: The time constraints are significant, and it’s generally difficult enough to get your audience to forget it’s, say, Dennis Quaid rather than Jerry Lee Lewis when they haven’t seen seen the real deal on TV sets earlier the same day.

When it works, though (and by no means am I saying Great Balls of Fire doesn’t — I haven’t really seen it), it nearly always owes more to an actor’s commitment to emotional honesty than to his or her knack for mimicry. Brolin, rather astoundingly, manages both as the titular prez: Love him or hate him, you’ll recognize Bush without effort. Cromwell and Dreyfuss’s subtler performances work wonders here, as well; there will be talk of Newton’s Rice, but mostly everyone works. Plus, it’s giddy fun to see Scott Glenn as Rumsfeld. Tony Blair (Ioan Gruffudd) and Ari Fleischer (Rob Corddry) draw giggles, as well.

I voted for Bush. Twice, I think. And I enjoyed this film. It’s somehow both more and less forgiving than I think one would expect. Essentially, what comes across is: Here’s a troubled, well-meaning guy who’s in a bit over his head — he just never should’ve been President.