W. is a movie that I suspect will surprise many people who give it a fair shot. Most people will expect the film to be a liberal propaganda piece to deter voters away from voting Republican next month. In a way it is, but it's also so much more than that. Those expecting a 2 hour long Bush bash will not find it in W.
Unfortunately, most people probably won't give it a fair shot and that, I think, will be the film's biggest problem at the box office. It won't appeal to the few Republicans who go to see W. because they will argue that Oliver Stone went too far with his jabs at President Bush, although that isn't the case at all. It also won't appeal to Democrats because they'll think the film didn't go far enough, and they'll be missing the entire point. The point isn't to make fun of President Bush or even talk about his alleged failed policies the Democrats are up in arms about. The film is a biopic about the life of George W. Bush, how he got to where he is today, and what went wrong along the way.
Yes, believe it or not this is remarkably fair to the President who has secured the record for the lowest approval rating in modern American history. In fact, W. takes this hated man and humanizes him in a way that makes us feel compassion for him. It shows Bush as a good person who just simply makes mistakes, as we all do. Late in the film, after it has been discovered that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Bush tells Laura that he only wanted to do what was best for the country. He wanted nothing more than to make the world a better place. Whether you love him or hate him, we all know that he does love our country and does what he thinks is best. The problem is how he did it.
This is what the film explores the most. However, Bush isn't really its main target. What the picture shows are the characters around him and how they contributed into him making the decisions he did. As Bush and his famous administration, including Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and Colin Powell, sit around and discuss what to do about the war on terror, its evident that Bush isn't the one making the decisions. They argue back and forth and Bush simply listens and makes his judgment calls based on what he hears. At one point, Cheney asks Bush whether he would eat lettuce if there was a 1% chance of him dying and Bush said no. He argued that even if there was a 1% chance of Iraq having weapons of mass destruction, that would warrant our invasion. I believe that the point the film is trying to make is this: Bush cannot be blamed for all that has happened. There were many facets that aided his decision making.
But is it a good movie? I've been typing here giving you lots of information into how President Bush is portrayed and what I think the message is, but I haven't really delved into whether or not you should go see it. Well, it's a mixed bag. W. suffers from an identity crisis. It isn't sure whether it wants to be a comedy or a drama. Sure, the movie explores the daddy issues inherent in the relationship between Bush and his father and it humanizes him for dramatic purposes, but it's not serious enough to be a good drama. And it has a few funny lines, but it isn't funny enough to be a comedy.
Although the film attempts to portray Bush in a neutral light, it still takes a few jabs at him. Some of these work and some don't. The ones that do work because they fit into the story, such as a great sequence where Bush can't find the words to answer a question posed to him. This is so funny because Josh Brolin, the actor portraying him, is merely quoting him exactly how he said it in real life. Regardless of your feelings towards the man, we can all admit he has said some incredibly stupid things and this was one of them.
Still, most of the jabs at Bush seemed forced, awkward, and unnecessary. Who doesn't remember his famous "fool me once" line where he couldn't remember the quote? In W., this moment isn't during a speech as it was in actuality. Instead, it is in an unfit place that works more as a throwaway line to garner a few chuckles from the liberals in the crowd. The most pointless jab at President Bush was a completely unnecessary sequence involving him choking on a pretzel watching a football game, as he did in real life. The only reason for this scene was to say, "Look how stupid he is! He can't even chew his food!" It didn't work, it was disposable, and should have been left out.
Despite all this, the film still manages to work. Although it chronicles the life of George Bush, I fully understand that a lot of it is fictionalized. There is no way to know exactly what was said behind closed doors. However, Oliver Stone gives us one possibility of what was said that seems plausible given where our nation is today. Conservatives will label W. a liberal propaganda film. They will be wrong. Liberals will label this an important look at the debacle that was the Bush administration. They will be wrong as well. Although it doesn't shy away from a few jokes at Bush's expense, W. is a sympathetic look inside the man that the country has turned its back on and deserves to be seen by liberals and conservatives alike.
W. receives 3.5/5