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Fool Me Once: Stone's Oedipal 'W.' Lacks Depth

You know things aren't going well for a Republican president when the best thing that happens to him in ages is a biopic by the famously left-wing Oliver Stone that depicts him not as reprehensible — as Michael Moore has — but as an earnest boy-man with daddy issues.

Let's give Stone points for trying to get into the head of W, played by Josh Brolin: The film is more effective for its measure of sympathy. As in his biopics of Nixon and Alexander the Great, Stone comes not to mock but to dramatize the nexus of personality and great power. If nothing else, W is an honest effort.

It's too bad it's lifeless — a rhythmless hash of flashbacks and tinny dialogue.

It's hard to know what went wrong; maybe Stone wants to change his image as a rabble-rouser and show his critics he has become more reflective and responsible.

But his greatest attribute — and I say this as someone whose least favorite film of all time is Natural Born Killers — has always been a certain lusty, blowhard showmanship. In the midst of these tumultuous times, in the midst of this tumultuous election, Stone has delivered his shallowest, most tepid film.

Copyright 2023 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

David Edelstein is a film critic for New York magazine and for NPR's Fresh Air, and an occasional commentator on film for CBS Sunday Morning. He has also written film criticism for the Village Voice, The New York Post, and Rolling Stone, and is a frequent contributor to the New York Times' Arts & Leisure section.