I saw Oliver Stone's new film, W., over the weekend. In the triptych of Stone's presidential biopics, I loved Nixon. The acting was remarkable, all of the technical elements were strong. Nixon himself was the worthiest of subjects for Stone's unique brand of analysis. JFK's assassination needed clarity, not jump cuts and bad make-up, muddled characterizations and operatic plotting. Not even Kevin Costner's compelling summation speech could reorder the confusion of the film's proposals. Stone is so talented, he almost made even conspiracy theorists, myself included, buy it. (Read James Ellroy's American Tabloid for another, more compelling take on JFK's murder.)
W. is a good film. Stone's camera work is almost sedate compared to the two other films. Perhaps that reflects the blithe nature of the subject. The acting is very good. James Cromwell as HW. Richard Dreyfuss, Thandie Newton, Bruce McGill, Scott Glenn, et al. working hard to bring to life the most suffocatingly closed off White House administration in our history. The W. White House makes Nixon's crowd look like the Loud family. Josh Brolin does great work here. Bush is a man done in as much by misplaced virility as he is by anti-intellectualism and the bitter resentments that are the hallmark of alcoholism, treated or otherwise. Brolin hits every note beautifully and only grows stronger as the film goes on. His only problem is that people simply want Bush to go. They are too exhausted to discuss his legacy now. Bush himself made sure of that.
The real treat here is Stacy Keach. Keach plays Earl Hudd, the fictitious evangelical who helps Bush get sober and find God (and, as a result, a Middle East policy). When Keach speaks, you get it. If Keach were around during my darkest times, I would have signed on with him myself. Keach has played every type of role there is in his wonderful career. He brings a truth and clarity to his scenes that actually pull the film together.
See W. for Josh, for Stone's enduring talents and for the truly great Stacy Keach.