October 21, 2008 by Zack
Ah, the movie event of the year! Well, sort of…Oliver Stone was originally going to do a film about the My Lai massacre, and it got scrapped. So, what is a 60+ year old conspiracy theorist director to do?
Why, make a movie about the current president of the United States, of course! And when you see Oliver Stone attached to something about a Republican president, all the right can do is roll their eyes, and the left licks their chops.
But, hold on a moment. Before jumping to a conclusion, let’s give Stone a chance. I mean, he had said before the movie was released that this was going to be more like “The Queen”; in that, Bush would be looked at from a personal standpoint, and not just the character assassination that Nixon got. Did he pull it off?
First, he can’t get over how much success his dad has had, and how much his dad admires his brother, Jeb. Second, he’s a booze hound who is more interested in partying and getting drunk than doing anything with his life. He is the essence of a spoiled brat. And his father resents that because he believes that the Bush name is about working hard for everything, and not being entitled to everything. “What do you think you are, a Kennedy?” he asks junior.
But, George has a change of lifestyle when he meets Laura Welch, played wonderfully by Elizabeth Banks, and eventually gives up drinking and takes up politics. Laura is great. She, too, was a drinker and a smoker–and a Democrat! Very open minded, she becomes a great supporter of her man, and is represented as a loving, fair minded individual, and very strong willed.
As George gets deeper into politics, he helps his father’s campaigns in ‘88 and ‘92, and decides to run for Governor of Texas in ‘93. To everyone’s surprise, he wins, and becomes Governor in ‘94. From then on, Bush enjoys some successes, and eventually of course wins (steals?) the 2000 Presidential election.
What’s interesting is that the movie does jump around a little in Bush’s life. We do see him in office in the early part of the film, and we get to see him with his conniving advisers, including Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld. The performances of all three of these guys are very good–with Dreyfuss being absolutely dead on as Cheney. He’s got the smug little smirk down perfect.
In fact, most everyone’s performances were very believable–the only one I disliked was Condy Rice. I don’t know if they were going for comic effect or just trying to make her as annoying as possible, but I’ve heard her speak…she’s not THIS bad. Distracted from the movie, and is the one pock mark on an otherwise pretty strong effort. Brolin shines as W., and deserves Oscar recognition.
The story itself revolves around Bush’s inability to really analyze anything and that does come back to haunt him in the Iraq invasion, and the film ends on the note that the Iraq war starts going downhill, and his popularity starts to dwindle. There’s an interesting running theme of Bush’s love of baseball being manifested in a recurring daydream he professes to his father in which he’s in center field, catching a fly ball. It’s his “happy place”, and he can always go there when things aren’t going well. For Bush, this happens often.
Stone’s take on Bush is a success, and deserves to be looked at fairly since his take on Bush is presented justly. You actually do kinda like W. by the end, and feel a bit sorry for him because he just can’t seem to get things right. In so many things in his life, he never tries to really do the right thing. In the case of Iraq, he really believed he was doing the right thing, and believed the wrong people. He’ll most likely go down in history as the worst president in our history.
But at least we’ll have this film to look at and say: but he wasn’t THAT bad of a guy…