The film starts with the youngish George W. Bush ( Josh Brolin
"No Country for Old Men") in the midst of a fairly
brutal hazing at his father's Yale fraternity involving alcohol and underwear. Then the film, directed by Oliver Ston
e ("Platoon," "JFK," "Nixon," "Wall Street" and "World Trade Center") moves back and forth through time loosely encompassing the period
ranging from George W.ís wild and raucous youth in the oil fields of
West Texas to the period when things begin to go badly in Iraq,
including many of the major events in between.
We see W. drinking hard, consorting with floozies, unable to hold a job, getting into
Harvard Business School, thanks to Dad and through a first failed run for Congress, in which heís labeled a
carpetbagger and declares that will never happen to him again. Finally he meets, Laura (Elizabeth Banks
"The 40 Year Old Virgin"), the right woman,
who readily recognizes his foibles but supports him step by step and helps him trade the bottle for religion. A few years later, he sets his sights on becoming the governor of Texas. His mother Barbara (Ellen Burstyn
"Requiem for a Dream") confronting his plans says "Governor of Texas? You
must be joking!" Dad (James Cromwell
"The Queen") tries to talk him into waiting four years, so Jeb (Jason Ritter
"Swimfan") can lock up the Florida governorship first, but by now, W. is unwilling to follow his father's orders. As a young operative in his fatherís White House, he
watches his dad win the war and lose an election; which he declares
will never happen to him. We see him in the Texas state house, part of the good-old-boy network
where he hooks up with Karl Rove (Toby Jones
, "The Mist"), who helps him race to the White House, getting there by whatever means necessary.
The film takes us inside the War Room and Oval Office, where we
learn that he is less bumbling than simply ill-informed and
fundamentally incapable of understanding nuance. Individual scenes are engrossing including a lunch with Dick Cheney (Richard
s "The Goodbye Girl") in which the vice president maneuvers to get his way on the
treatment of prisoners but is abruptly told by his boss to "keep your
ego in check"; the many attempts by Secretary of State Colin Powell
"Casino Royale") to argue for a prudent course on Iraq, all of which
are met with clucking disdain from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
); George Sr.'s reluctance to declare himself "born again"
to shore up his support among "the base"; and Cheney's chilling answer
to the question of what the exit strategy from Iraq will be: "There
is no exit. We stay." But W. seems to genuinely hope the plans will all work, but if they donít, it doesn't matter because God told him to go to war and is on his side.
If there is one character who offers some measure of
reason, itís Colin Powell who is thoughtful, sincere and, for the most
part, duped. "W." is the story of a moderately intelligent,
personally shallow, serial failure with a daddy complex whose driving
impetus reflects nothing more than an unyielding desire for his
fatherís love. Nevertheless, this is still an entertaining and surprisingly sympathetic film.