"It was wacky stuff that at the end of the day took us out of the movie," Mr. Stone said in a recent interview in a back corner of the restaurant at the Royalton Hotel in Manhattan. "We wanted to focus on the mind-set of this man. We don't change anything in his true story. Don't have to, because it's a great story. Dickens would do it. Mark Twain would write a great book. This guy who is basically a bum becomes president of the United States."
The surprise about "W." is that its left-wing creator made a movie that is not so much operatic or hysterical as utterly plausible.
Yes, there are soapy oversimplifications and embellishments (and some hallucinatory camera work involving baseball stadiums and showdowns in the Oval Office) that Bush loyalists will seize on as reprehensible distortions.
But all in all, the straightforwardness of "W." suggests that Mr. Stone set out to make a critical biography but was somehow spooked. The director who has built a career on vowing to unearth hidden truths made a movie that feels more familiar than revelatory.