You’re Josh Brolin. Ruggedly good-looking, amazing wife, having the best year of your career. Oliver Stone comes calling to enlist you in bringing to life a screenplay that has been given a drubbing based on the first few pages and a full-blown dismissal based on the thing as a whole. Why the hell do you say ‘yeah, hit me’?
“When Oliver asked me, I said, ‘Are you crazy? Why would I want to do this with my little moment in my career?’” Brolin tells the LA Times. But the actual script — perhaps one similar to the pages subsequently predicted to be less valuable than sub-prime mortgage scrip — changed his mind. “It was very different than what I thought it would be, which was a far-left hammering of the president.“
I don’t believe it, either, if only because focusing on the man’s life either as a whole or incident by incident is bound to at least imply a hammering. Brolin continues to play defense.
“Republicans can look at it and say, ‘This is why I like this guy.’ It’s not a political movie. It’s a biography. People will remember that this guy is human, when we are always [outside of the movie] dehumanizing him, calling him an idiot, a puppet, a failed president. We want to know in the movie: How does a guy grow up and become the person that he did?“
Charging in with the assist is Oliver Stone himself. “We are trying to walk in the footsteps of W and try to feel like he does, to try to get inside his head. But it’s never meant to demean him.” In my own sad, misguided way I actually believe that to be true; I get all somber and start to nod knowingly and stroke my chin while reading Stone’s statements. But when he calls it a ‘Shakespearean story’ the laughs rumble out again. The gulf between intent and actuality is wide and deep, and W. still looks poised to be swept in and away.
No matter how deep-rooted my distrust of this production might be, however, all I have to see is a few photos like the one of a battered Brolin in jail, and I’m ready to at least have a good time at the movies. I’m even starting to lay odds on the side of irony — what if Stone’s movie actually brings audiences back to Dubya’s side? At least by then it will be too late.