Who’s In It: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks, James Cromwell, Richard Dreyfuss, Toby Jones, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Scott Glenn, Ellen Burstyn
The Basics: According to this movie, President George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq because Daddy didn’t love him enough. And because Cheney and Rove and all those other guys told him to. Because he’s a dummy. Or maybe he’s not such a dummy. It’s hard to tell, based on the way he’s portrayed here, an accumulation of public fact and private conjecture that’s both less than we need to be told and more than most of us want to know. At least a Saturday Night Live sketch about these same people is funny.
What’s The Deal: Who is this movie made for, anyway? If you’re like me and an avowed left-wing grump, then you won’t want to pay 12 bucks to sit in a theater for two hours and 11 minutes to be reminded why you’re voting for Obama. And if you’re a GWB fan and/or simply a chagrined Republican who wants to protect the reputations of your own people, you’ll just be angered by how much of a doofus the man comes off looking like. Oliver Stone may think he’s being sympathetic here by pulling back on whatever political distaste he feels for the President, but all you get is a soggy middle. That makes it a lose/lose situation for everyone.
Who’s Awesome: Ellen Burstyn as a super-dominating Barbara; James Cromwell as a perpetually exhausted and mortified Bush Sr.; Jeffrey Wright just being Jeffrey Wright and Colin Powell at the same time, instead of going after the easy caricature; and Elizabeth Banks doing a fairly accurate Parker Posey impersonation. Not that it’s her fault that she sort of looks like Posey in the Laura B wigs, but the movie only really gives her the bemused, “Oh really” sort of stance to inhabit, one that Posey’s perfected in movie after movie.
Who’s Not: Brolin. He’s got the dialect and the frustrated sense of loss down, but it comes off more like Chevy Chase in the 1970s, giving you a one-note President Ford who’s always falling down. He’s supposed to carry the movie but he communicates petulance by chomping harder on sandwiches, and the audience doesn’t get a sense of that entitled, frat boy anti-charisma that so many of those guys employ in their running of the world.
Who’s Funny: Thandie Newton as Condoleeza Rice. She’s not on screen enough for you to get used to her being this person whose mannerisms you already know, and she’s so technically precise and overly-accurate with the speaking voice and the various facial contortions that when I saw it all the audience could do was crack up when she was speaking.