W. (2008) *1/2**

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 2hr 11min
Director: Oliver Stone
Stars: Josh Brolin, James Cromwell, Richard Dreyfuss, Elizabeth Banks
Genre: Comedy
Language: English

Bush From the Beginning, to the Middle, but Not Quite the End

In a Nutshell

Plot

Straight as an Arrow
Twisty

Sound Quality

Easy to Hear
Incomprehensible

Who's That?

Few Main Characters
Lots

Naughty Words

Mild
Foul

Naked people

None
Lots

Violence

Tame
Bloody

The initial reaction to a movie about the ups and downs of George W. Bush might be, “Haven’t we seen and heard enough in the past eight years?”

The question would be good and fair, and to some extent so is the Oliver Stone film. Unlike the Stone films we’ve become used to, however, this one lacks the fire in the belly that has distinguished his previous work.

Overall there is a flatness to the film that is punctuated, at times, with laughter, sadness, religious beliefs, determination and failure. It’s a pity the film ends in 2004, however, knowing what most of us know happened from then until today.

It’s clear Stone is not a Bush fan, and with the lowest approval ratings of any president since Harry Truman, he is obviously not alone.

Starting with Bush’s induction into a Yale fraternity, through his alcoholism, some womanizing, his failures at a whole raft of things he tried to do, one thing stands out: his need, and constant failure, to impress Daddy, George H. W. Bush.

Somehow, the movie makes clear, Bush felt himself constantly overlooked by his father in favor of the younger son, Jeb. Even his mother, Barbara, is seen telling him not to run for the White House because he had her short-fused temperament, something the White House didn’t need.

Josh Brolin does a fairly good job in the title role, from carousing and poker playing in Texas bars in his cowboy hat, to wooing Laura (Elizabeth Banks), to finding God, from beating the Democrat Ann Richards to become state governor, to winning the White House.

He is also convincing when he reminds Dick Cheney (referred to throughout as “Vice”) that he, Bush, is the president; and when he shows his anger at a White House meeting after learning that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, and that a failure of intelligence was to blame.

These scenes alone, and there are others, show Bush in a sympathetic light, so it’s not altogether one-sided.

Three things, however, play a prominent role, in the movie and in Bush’s life: being born into a family of privilege, Daddy, and the maneuverings of Karl Rove, both to get Bush elected Texas governor and president of the United States. Neither one seemed a pushover at the time, but Rove is always there, political data in hand, in the movie and, again, in life figuring out the odds and telling Bush he can do it if his sticks to the script Rove provides.

Is the movie a documentary? Sort of, and then again no, because the inner White House meetings and other scenes it portrays have hardly been put on the record. Is it a comedy? Yes, sometimes, in a weak sort of way.

Is it an historical record? We would guess yes, to some extent, but it’s one few would want to see repeated, as history is said to do. The public events portrayed are things most people are aware of, but a meeting of all the senior administration officials agreeing that gaining access to Iraq’s oil (oh, and Iran’s, too) is a good reason to go to war is conjecture, at least until proved otherwise.

The film uses a succession of flashbacks, back and forth from one decade and year to another, to show Bush’s failures (losing a Texas Congressional race), as well as his successes (giving up drinking and finally coming out from brother Jeb’s shadow).

That technique can be confusing at times, and as we all know how events played out after the ending point in 2004, it’s difficult to know what overall point Stone was trying to make.

Unless it was to prove that even a man of privilege should be given the right to make bad choices, tick off his Daddy, refuse to listen to Mom, and prepare the country for God knows what.

A lifelong journalist, Terence Neilan started his career in his home country, England, and then moved to New York in 1970. After a couple of years as an editor at The New York Post, he moved to The New York Times, where he worked as an editor and Website reporter for 29 years, retiring in 2005.

Comments

Takaomi said on December 2, 2012

 

Don’t miss the fabulous aorwrtks of the famous Rose Mary Mandrell, who displays her colorful narrative and unique introspective works at W.C. Mercantile in GLORIOUS Nav o’leans Sota! You might catch a glimpse of Rosie as she paints that day Rose Mary also has a gallery of her artwork at Westwick Antiques on Washington Avenue near the Navasota DQ. Painting is born of nature—or, to speak more correctly, we will say it is the grandchild of nature; for all visible things are produced by nature, and these her children have given birth to painting. Hence we may justly call it the grandchild of nature and related to God. Leonardo Da Vinci

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