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Oliver Stone's 'W.': Critics react

October 7, 2008 |  1:16 pm

Jb3The very first public screening of Oliver Stone's latest film "W." unspooled at the Landmark in West Los Angeles on Monday night before a crowd of Hollywood luminaries. Among them were critics, bloggers and pundits, and we've assembled notable bites from several of their reviews. The Lionsgate film, starring Josh Brolin as George W. Bush, opens in theaters on Oct. 17.

“Oliver Stone's unusual and inescapably interesting "W." feels like a rough draft of a film it might behoove him to remake in 10 or 15 years.” (Todd McCarthy, Variety)

“Stone bores us to tears with dreary docu-style scenes of White House meetings in the run-up to the Iraq war. The scenes feel accurate, to a fault; they capture everyone's policy positions correctly, but they lack any poetry or tragic drama.” (Patrick Goldstein, L.A. Times)

“Someone should ask Oliver why it's always so dark in the White House meeting rooms -- is that a metaphor or was he trying to disguise how little money he had to spend on the sets?” (Patrick Goldstein, L.A. Times)

“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.” (Todd McCarthy, Variety)

“It's a gutsy movie but not necessarily a good one. Its greatest strength is that it wants to talk about what's on our minds right now and not wait for historians.” (Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter) 

“[Oliver Stone] wants to let the facts speak for themselves.  But do they? It's all too easy, too pat. Can George W. Bush really be solved in two-plus hours?” (Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter)

“Despite a strong, compelling and entertaining turn from Josh Brolin, as both the younger and older President Bush, "W." is too brief and sketchy to qualify as a comprehensive chronicle of the 43rd President of the U.S.” (Emanuel Levy, www.emanuellevy.com)

“As a film, “W.” represents a passable entertainment, one that's easy to take and be moderately engaged in. However, lacking real bite and criticism, and mostly rehashing facts that are known about Bush fils' earlier life, Stone’s new work is not strong enough to occupy the Op-Ed pages or stir controversy among viewers.” (Emanuel Levy, www.emanuellevy.com)

“The movie is utterly plausible, well-acted by a top-notch ensemble (except for a too-broad Thandie Newton as Condoleeza Rice) and surprisingly balanced, compassionate and even-handed. Somehow the film lacks the urgency of its own making.” (Anne Thompson, Variety)

“You're supposed to say ‘this is great but why isn't it better?’ Because it's about a fairly shallow man, for one thing, and the facts are the facts. On top of which cagey Oliver is holding his cards to his chest and making you wait for the turnaround of the last ten or twelve minutes, which pays off (or at least paid off for me) in a way that -- seriously, no jive -- is something close to astonishing.” (Jeffrey Wells, hollywood-elsewhere.com)

“I came out saying to myself, as Bush himself says to himself at the finale, ‘What just happened?’ By the last shot you are sold because the anger is gone and you're left with this stunned and oddly tragic figure saying to himself, ‘This is how my life turned out?’” (Jeffrey Wells, hollywood-elsewhere.com)

“My instinct is that a movie that has no natural ending is problematic ... and that even doing the film in almost real-time, that another month in the editing room would have helped some third act pacing issues. It's not like I can sit and point to specific things I would cut or complain about instinctually. But it gets long as you pass the halfway mark.” (David Poland, The Hot Blog)

“I like the movie. It is not Strangelove in any way. It doesn’t aspire to be. We laugh at the familiar and it is often funny, but it is not a comedy, really. It’s a life, unexpected. But the Big Theme appears, on this viewing, to be missing in action.” (David Poland, The Hot Blog)

-- Reactions compiled by Stephanie Lysaght

Photo: Courtesy of Lionsgate

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