by Elaine Hegwood Bowen
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W., the movie based on President George W. Bush’s life and still ongoing presidency, showcases a stellar cast, but I’m still trying to figure out the movie’s intent. Did esteemed director Oliver Stone want to show just how inept Bush was in actually performing the duties of President, not once but twice? Or was Stone trying to convince the American, movie going audience that Bush was ill-equipped to serve as the nation’s 43rd President? I know both suppositions seem similar. But either scenario produces the same results for me—if the jury was out on how Bush handled American military affairs after the tragic events of September 11, 2001, as well as his crazed hunt for “weapons of mass destruction,” now it’s chronicled for future generations to see: Bush hadn’t a clue.
Cast members include Josh Brolin as Bush; Jeffrey Wright as Colin Powell; an unrecognizable Thandie Newton as Condoleezza Rice; Ellen Burstyn as Barbara Bush; Richard Dreyfuss as a remarkable stand-in for Vice President Dick Cheney; James Cromwell as former President George H.W. Bush; Elizabeth Banks as Laura Bush; and Stacy Keach as the fat, bloated Rev. Earl Hudd.
The movie starts with the young Bush’s Yale college days, after which he seems to amble from one vocation to another and even having his daddy pay off a girl that he supposedly impregnated. This is before he meets Laura, who later becomes his wife.
A sibling rivalry between George W. and his brother, Jeb, is evident in the movie, and Bush seems only to be proficient as the owner of a Texas baseball team. He also had stints in the oil industry and as an investment banker, among other things.
While baseball seemed to be his niche, power and entitlement changed the course of history for Bush—a political life whose demise is quickly on the horizon.
While I give certain cast members credit for bringing the dreadful Iraq War story to life, Newton playing Rice is so painful to watch; I’m not sure why Stone had Newton embrace such an irritating inflection. Every time she spoke, it made Rice seem as a bumbling idiot. But I suppose this all goes well with the rest of Bush’s cabinet. In the end, they all seemed to be a bunch of bumbling, brainless bureaucrats, as the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, the ultimate terrorist, crumbles with more questions raised than were answered.
In the beginning the cabinet goes through trying to figure out how to address the 9/11 crisis in such a lackadaisical manner, finally agreeing on the “Axis of Evil” as a good catchphrase to describe what Bush deemed governments whom he believed were terrorists.
In the movie, Bush calls his dad “weak in spirit,” and it seems the elder Bush has an acrimonious relationship with his son, as if he’s embarrassed by his academic and political antics. Stone details that George W. decided he wanted to be governor of Texas, just on a whim, just trying to take Gov. Ann Richards down.
He gets a primer on governorship from his buddy Karl Rove, played by Toby Jones. They practice in the park how to field questions from the media, after George W. totally botches education questions from pool reporters. His answers are so convoluted and disconnected; only serving to further illustrate his weak political strengths.
Everything about Bush’s rise up the political ladder seemed so juvenile, so playful, for lack of better descriptions. He just seemed to want a new toy and then went to the elder Bush, asked for it, and so it was given.
There’s a striking scene when Bush is preparing for his Presidential inauguration, and his father brings his grandfather’s cufflinks for him to wear. George W. is irritated because the elder Bush put his feelings in a card. He even seems to pout a bit, until Laura consoles him.
President Bush seems to always yearn for his father’s approval, calling him a nickname of “Poppy.” But his father scolds him often, especially when George W. is drinking, before he “found religion.” George Sr. once asked him: “Who do you think you are, a Kennedy? You’re a Bush. Act like one.”
History has proven that many a politician would be glad to wear the Kennedy crest.
Bush’s sympathy for the soldiers seems so forced; similar to how it seems the misdeeds and grave mistakes of his entire eight years in office have been forced on the nation.
The actors in W. are great to watch, even though the way Stone covers some of the details of President Bush’s life may make you want to scratch your head and ponder, “What the hell?”
Elaine Hegwood Bowen is a veteran public relations and journalism professional and former journalism professor. She’s publicist for her daughter, Hip-Hop artist Psalm One. A native Chicago South Sider, Elaine was a recent University of Maryland Bio Ethics, Health Disparities & Clinical Trials Fellow and winner of a Black Press Messenger Award.
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