Released 17 October 2008
Running time around 2 hours
Starring Josh Brolin as George W. Bush
Directed by Oliver Stone
Finally! The long anticipated docu-drama about Amerika's real first Black President!
I have to say, I was expecting this film to be more of a comedy than it was. Granted there were some funny and even some pretty hilarious moments. I don't blame the filmmakers though. It's just that every time I think of Dumbya I start laughing out loud. Bush is the biggest clown since Jerry Lewis.
No real spoilers here plotwise, since everything in the film is public knowledge - Bush's life, his carousing and dessicate days of youth, his alcoholism, becoming "born again", entry into politics, rise to power, presidency, etc. etc.
This is not a documentary, however - more like a character study, as is appropriate for a film that doesn't pretend to be a documentary. My biggest disappointment was not seeing anything related to Hurricane Katrina. That would have been quite cherce.
The film's story focused on two things in particular. One was the secret high-level planning that led up to the Iraq War. Since this is an Oliver Stone film I can't deny that there is a distinct ideological bent to how this is presented, and certainly nothing can be said about how things really went down in the halls of power. But you will not be disappointed, I assure you. The greatest delight is Richard Dreyfuss' Strangelovian portrayal of Dick Cheney, and Jeffery Wright's portrayal of Colin Powell as virtually the only voice of reason within the Administration. (I wonder if that was really the case. I did get to see Gen. Powell in life a couple years ago at a convention, and he seemed reasonable enough - of course, appearances can be deceiving.)
The second aspect, and perhaps the thematic heart of the film, was Junior's relationship with his father. **SPOILERS AHEAD** Now I believe that Stone's central thesis about Bush is that his major purpose in life is to earn his father's respect, in light of his wayward youth and the estimate in his family's mind that brother Jeb would be the Bush son who would go forth to better and brighter things. It has been stated by some critics that W treats its subject somewhat sympathetically. If there is anything that reinforces this perception, it is how Stone demonstrates that perhaps Bush's real need is to make "Poppy" proud of him. This extends to "finishing" the job in Iraq that Bush the elder left "undone".
So are we all pawns of Shrub's inferiority complex? Who knows? But it wouldn't be the first time in history that the common folk suffered and died because of domestic troubles among those who wear the purple.
Of course, this doesn't stop Stone from showing Bush as the simpleton which he is. In all it is a balanced portrayal, though. Dumbs is clearly portrayed as someone who wants to do "good" in the simple-minded American exceptionalist sense of the word, but whose capacities and abilities are too limited to comprehend the complexities entailed therein, and thus becomes dominated by the likes of Rove and Darth Cheney.
Kudos to Josh Brolin and especially James Cromwell for their realistic and honest portrayals of the 43rd and 41st Leaders, respectively.