Hollywood Does Bush the Lesser

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I forced myself recently to watch Oliver Stone’s movie takedown of George W. Bush called W.  I have a morbid curiosity about cataloging trends among the pseudo-intelligentsia.  This film, like previous productions of the same auteur, is doubtless providing multiple thrills for the type in America and Europe.

As readers here are well aware, I hold no brief for Bush Minor, a morally and intellectually defective man who has done irreparable damage to our country.  If anything, the film, while exposing his defects clearly, is actually too sympathetic.  Bush is portrayed as an almost tragic figure. But his career is not a tragedy; it is  a nasty farce.  One gets the impression, no doubt intended, that George W. was inevitably doomed by being a Texan, a born-again Christian, and from an ambitious family.  This message is re-enforced by the background country music.

Of course, there are the natural limitations of the docudrama, essentially a form of fraud which makes up acts and words from imagination and applies them to real events.  The purpose is usually propaganda rather than history.  (Of course, some of our most celebrated historians these days do the same thing.)  Josh Brolin gives a tour de force acting job as W., but it does not work.  He is better looking and more masculine than George Bush, and he lacks that slight hint of squeeze-faced, sneering New England ninniness that dominates Bush’s face. (“What, me worry?”) Brolin’s screen accent is more Southern than Bush’s, doubtless to make the point about the evil brought about by Texanness.

The portrayals of Cheney and Rumsfeld don’t convince me—neither Richard Dreyfuss nor Scott Glenn show enough arrogance and force.  Colin Powell, as played by Jeffrey Wright, is not very convincing in addition to being portrayed as more noble and independent-minded than the real thing.  Barbara Bush is played by Ellen Burstyn as feisty, but she misses the supercilious, contemptuous Yankee flavour of Babs’ demeanour.   Thandie Newton does a great job of presenting the insipidness of Condi Rice, however.  I am undecided about James Cromwell’s portrayal of Bush Major—perhaps because one has less sense of his private person than the others.

My favourite moment is when candidate Bush avows he will read the whole Constitution and even learn parts of it if necessary.  Reminded me of freshman history students, most of whom have never read the Constitution and can make no intellectual connection with it if they do.

There are, of course, some things that one won’t get from this highly doctored account of history.  For instance, some words never appear in the two hours: Israel, neoconservatives, Douglas Feith, Office of Special Plans, Project for the New American Century.

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