Good ol’ boy, barfly, born-again Jesus freak, 43rd President of the United States: will the real George W Bush please stand up? Not in this biopic.
Oliver Stone’s entertaining yet cartoonish drama cuts’n’pastes fact and fiction, turning Josh Brolin’s beer-swigging, face-stuffing Dubya into a sub-Shakespearean tragic hero. His Achilles heel? Oedipal conflict with daddy dearest – a psychological flaw that leads a nation to downtown Baghdad. “It was clear Bush was going to be hated for this war,” says Stone on his yak track, “and yet he kept going.”
Pop psychology replaces insight: “The essential pivot in his life was being a failure for so long, being the black sheep of the family,” intones screenwriter Stanley Weiser in the Making Of. How does he know? Well, um, he doesn’t, which is why ludicrous fantasy sequences – like the surreal Oval Office punch-up or deleted scenes showing Bush watching football with Saddam and flying over Iraq on a magic carpet – make this into a blunt hatchet job.
“Is it really controversial?” muses Brolin in the Making Of doc. It’s not and, together with World Trade Center, W marks a strangely un-provocative period for Stone. The extras prove the point: an impassioned doc (by the director’s son, Sean) outlining the neo-cons’ post-9/11 policies – from the Patriot Act to Iraq to Gitmo – adding much needed political meat to W’s gristle.