by Marc Glassman
W. Oliver Stone, director, photographer, executive producer. Stanley Weiser, script. Starring: Josh Brolin (George W. Bush), Elizabeth Banks (Laura Bush), James Cromwell (George H. W. Bush), Ellen Burstyn (Barbara Bush), Richard Dreyfus (Dick Cheney), Scott Glenn (Donald Rumsfeld), Toby Jones (Karl Rove), Stacy Keach (Earle Hudd) Thandie Newton (Condi Rice), Jeffrey Wright (Colin Powell)
Happy Go Lucky. Mike Leigh, director and script. Starring: Sally Hawkins (Poppy), Eddie Marsan (Scott), Alexis Zegerman (Zoe), Andrea Riseborough (Dawn), Samuel Roukin (Tim), Karina Fernandez (Flamenco Instructor)
A FEW QUESTIONS—SORT OF A REVIEW
1. What happens when great directors make poor movies?
2. Are you angry when you review them or compassionate?
3. Why does Mike Leigh think he should do a comedy?
4. Why does Oliver Stone think he should a straight bio-pic of someone he clearly despises?
5. What would either gentleman do without fabulous lead actors?
6. What did Stone say to Brolin or Leigh to Hawkins to motivate them to “save” these pictures?
7. Is it funny to have a psychotic driving instructor terrorize an admittedly overly naïve teacher? Ask Leigh.
8. Does it help to explain “W’s” character by having Stone place him in an empty baseball stadium pretending to play the game—with appropriate crowd cheers?
9. Why are Leigh’s best moments in Happy Go Lucky scenes of complete breakdowns—between a lovelorn flamenco instructor and her students and that darn driving instructor, who, in fact, may have fallen in love with that naïve teacher?
10. Why is the teacher named Poppy?
11. Why is W named W?
12. How can Thandie Newton be sexy impersonating Condi Rice? (Maybe because she used to work with Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts in Australia twenty five years ago? But I digress.)
13. Are Leigh and Stone trying to undermine the auteur theory? Should directors stop being superstars?
W: A loser frat boy gets it together when he’s 40 by renouncing alcohol, finding the right woman and—this is America—Jesus. He tries to do right by his “Poppy,” but is denied love. So when Poppy is dethroned as President by that horrid Bill Clinton, our reformed, but still mediocre, middle-aged frat boy takes on two tasks. Become President. Kill Sadam Hussein. He succeeds—but fails. (It’s an American tragedy). And Dad still doesn’t love him. (Oops. It’s an ancient Greek tragedy.)
Happy Go Lucky. Poppy is an overly enthusiastic, naïve young thing hanging out in London, drinking and having a good time with her mates. Only problem: no boyfriend. Oh, OK: second problem. She doesn’t have a driver’s license. So, she finds Eddie, a psychotic, racist instructor. He tries to teach her how to drive. Meanwhile Tim, a nice guy—you know it because he reads books, is kind to kids, plays footie with his mates and is respectful to women—shows up. Cue love—and hate, from Eddie. But hey, it’s a comedy. Sorta. So everything, um, kinda works out.
For Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan (a brilliant psycho), James Brolin (wow—he should be a big star), Elizabeth Banks (way too hot to be Laura Bush) and Richard Dreyfus and James Cromwell (better at being Cheney and Bush, Senior than the original dudes.)