Around 2030, the story of the Bush administration will begin to emerge as real history. Until then, for those who can’t wait, there’s the Oliver Stone version — a surprisingly enjoyable night out with the rabbit who has been working the controls in Bush Junior’s brain all these years.
The movie poster helpfully spells out for those too dim to work out for themselves that “W.” is actually pronounced “Dubya”; and we are left with the distinct impression that the 43rd President is probably one of them. He comes over as a Mickey Mouse character; Mickey whose appeal Walt himself described as “a little guy trying his best.” Surrounded by intelligent, sometimes well-meaning, sometimes manipulative people, W. is an amiable buffoon with a desperate need to prove himself, a curously conflicted Big Kid, posing as a grown up world leader. Essentially, he is way out of his depth.
It took JFK 28 years to achieve his Stone biopic. It is thus a rare distinction to get your own before leaving office. Indeed, the figure at the centre of this movie is surprisingly sympatico — a small boy with his spoon in the jamjar and an engaging grin that goes right through him, like Blackpool runs through Blackpool rock.
All the Big Names show up for the party, and a squad of actors has had a wonderful romp impersonating the gang — Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rove, Scowcroft, Powell, Rice... There’s even a cameo Tony Blair down on the ranch, with his own ear-to-ear grin. Dubya, on a bizarre Oedipus trip all his own, propels the free world towards what Stone sees as the most idiotic, pointless and destructive fiasco of modern times. I wish I remembered the detail well enough to know which lines and incidents in this movie are actually historical. The future president’s deathly duel with a Pretzel is, I believe, historical; but I wonder about the line given to Colin Powell, where the statesman and soldier perceptively warns the president that this Iraq thing will mire down everything he is trying to achieve.
Dubya’s best efforts to prove his pappy wrong, glowingly prove his pappy right all along. On the way, he accidentally puts the prestige of the greatest nation on earth pretty much down the toilet, and makes a complete arse of himself even unto his own, plunging his ratings from the high 70’s to round about 20. If this genre catches on, Dubya II may attempt to explain why, whilst doing this, he saddled his countrymen with $35,000 a head of public debt; or as Reagan and Thatcher used to call it, deferred taxation.
You couldn’t make this stuff up — but then you don’t have to; you just have to hope someone can somehow put things back together again so that we get a 2030 from which historians can look back and tell us when to laugh and when to cry.