KINETOFILM RATING: 4/10
by Brian Holcomb
Why this film was made while Dubya was still in office is a mystery. The film is reductionary on all counts falling back upon the standard linear arc that all biopics do in the end. I think it's a genre that never really works because the very idea that the life of a human being can be contained in two, even three hours is absurd. The worst of them fall victim to using lame dimestore Freud to create a narrative arc-i.e. If only his father loved him, blah blah blah-Personally, I think the question "WHY?" could be removed from the narrative of most films and would significantly increase their quality. Who can say WHY anyone does anything you know? It's presumptuous. That said, it can work if the film focuses on one side of a person's life for a short period and uses specific episodes to examine the subject in action, observing them making decisions and mistakes that reveal something about their possible flaws. Using the micro to illuminate the macro. THE AVIATOR was pretty effective in that respect giving us hints of the man Hughes would become through the extraordinary achievements of youth. But even there the impulse to editorialize couldn't be avoided: Mom cleaning the boy, keeping him CLEAN.
A movie like CHE with Del Toro is the worst example of how to do it right. 4 Hours of merely watching the back of Che's head, observing him thinking about God knows what doesn't work either. Now a film like THE HOURS AND THE TIMES got it right-it's about what may have happened on the weekend John Lennon spent with Brian Epstein. A weekend that may have had them share a more intimate encounter. The film doesn't dramatize a series of facts-Lennon being born, going to school, hooking up with Paul, George and Ringo in a series of "meet cutes". No, it's really just about these two guys on one weekend. The film just lets the audience hang out with Lennon and to let our own imaginations fill in the details of where he came from and the tragic end we all know will come. I think this approach is smart-for example the great Bob Dylan Documentary DON'T LOOK BACK gives me a clearer image of who the young Bob Dylan was than any 4 hour biopic could.
You might expect a harsh attack on President Bush from the director of JFK. But this is more like an affectionate kick in the groin of a good old boy you'd like to have a beer with, or with W today, a near Beer. Josh Brolin does fine work as the title letter but leaves you with the sneaking suspicion that Will Ferrell could've done it just as well. The film's satirical tone is not far removed from an SNL skit to begin with. All in all Stone is almost too fair to Bush throughout. He saves his bile for Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfus) and Condelezza Rice (Thandie Newton), portraying Cheney as a conniving rat and Rice as a smiling harpy. Dreyfus does a good job of creating a real character out of his cariacatured material but Newton goes straight over the top and onto the White House lawn.