Director Oliver Stone, famous for his talent of depicting the lives of historical characters, embarks on one of the toughest challenges of his career – a movie about the rise and fall of George W Bush, unveiling his innermost motives, drives and weaknesses.
“You misunderestimate me” (George W. Bush).
Oliver Stone has always proved to have a particular talent for biographical movies, attempting to do this in the most reliable and unbiased way as possible. His motion pictures are, and always will be, remembered not only as important pieces of cinematography but also as historical fragments that give us a deeper insight into certain political figures.
Before Bush, Oliver Stone had already successfully portrayed other American presidents (JFK, 1991; Nixon, 1995). “W.” however has had mixed reviews. The Bush family obviously responded by stating that the image of their family was distorted. Parts of the media judged Stone’s portrayal of the president as too soft, naïve and simplistic towards one of the most despised and probably catastrophic American leaderships of all time.
By going to watch the movie we expect to come across something maybe revealing about the last president, to maybe discover something more behind the façade of the American idiot, but we discover nothing!
Surprisingly, we see an incredible story of a man born into a very powerful family, struggling to make a difference in a world where nobody believes in him. Bush becomes the black sheep, the rebel, the misunderstood, the alcoholic. By unveiling his weaknesses, Stone humanizes Bush. “I will never follow my father” is one of the opening lines. Then, however, we see him succumbing to the patronising figure of Bush senior. His rage builds up because his father will never recognize his achievements. Later we get a glimpse into the competition with his brother, the Texas campaign and finally, the supposed call from God to become president.
‘Surprisingly, we see an incredible story of a man struggling to make a difference in a world where nobody believes in him’
The picture we get of Bush is that of a man who never grew up, who never emancipated himself from his parents, who is still scared of his father’s disappointment. Like a child playing with soldiers, he plays with his presidency and with the war. Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, in contrast, appear as the evil architects of a plan for world domination: “We’re gonna seize the oil fields” says Dick Cheney, “But I thought the whole point of this war was fighting for democracy and freedom!“ cries George W. the perfect essence of idiocy. This leads us to think that Oliver Stone’s portrayal is extremely caricatured and therefore not as reliable as we would wish it to be.
In his view the president himself appears to be the first victim of a conspiracy. It seems difficult to believe that such a simple minded person came to have that power.
We cannot know whether or not Oliver Stone’s interpretation is true. History will have its final judgment. What we can say for now, however, is that if he is right, if this is the portrait of the previous American presidency, there is no point in even despairing. Maybe a laugh would me more suitable.