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W. (pronounced "dub-ya") is a 2008 American biographical film based on the life and presidency of George W. Bush. It was produced and directed by Oliver Stone, written by Stanley Weiser, and stars Josh Brolin as President Bush. Filming began on May 12, 2008, in Louisianamarker and the film was released on October 17.

Plot

George W. Bush (Josh Brolin) endures an alcohol-fueled initiation by fellow Yalemarker students as a pledge for the fictional Delta Iota Kappa fraternity. During the hazing, Bush successfully recalls the names and nicknames of many of the fraternity members and states that his father's political legacy is one in which he has no interest. After the younger Bush is jailed for rowdiness following a football game, his father, Texasmarker Congressman George H.W. Bush (James Cromwell), states that he will help his son, but only for the last time. Bush quits an oil patch job soon after and is accepted into Harvard Business Schoolmarker with the help of his father. Later that night he gets into a drunken fight with the elder Bush. "Junior" then reveals his real aspirations in a father-son talk: being a baseball manager.

At a poker game Bush announces he will run for Congress in Texas. At a barbecue Bush meets Laura Welch (Elizabeth Banks), his future wife. Bush is criticized by his opponent, Democrat Kent Hance (Paul Rae), who says that Bush is not a "real Texan" and has spent campaign contributions to throw an alcohol fueled party to underage Texas Tech Universitymarker students. Bush does poorly in the debate and loses the election, but with the highest number of votes for a Republican candidate in the state's history.

After turning 40, Bush becomes a born again Christian, gives up alcohol, and mends his relationship with his father, who invites him to assist with his successful presidential campaign, though the younger Bush complains that he only was asked because his brother Jeb was busy. Karl Rove (Toby Jones) tells Bush that he has the potential to make a name for himself, but has not yet done enough in his life to warrant political election. Bush becomes owner of the Texas Rangers while his father oversees the victory of the Gulf War in 100 hours but decides not to invade Iraqmarker and overthrow Saddam Hussein. When Bush's father loses the 1992 election, Bush blames the loss on the decision not to depose Hussein.

Bush decides to run for Governor of Texas despite his parents' disapproval. An election win prompts a successful presidential bid in 2000, followed by the September 11 attacks. As President, Bush plans a war with Iraq, and labels America's enemies — specifically Iraq, North Koreamarker, and Iranmarker — the "axis of evil". In 2002, Bush begins searching for evidence that Hussein was creating nuclear weapons, and has the army prepared. Bush's staff supports the president, with the exception of Secretary of State Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright), who says that invading Iraq would destabilize the country. He is generally overruled by Vice President Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss) and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (Scott Glenn), who insist that the war — deliberately waged without an exit strategy — would secure the U.S.' status as sole global superpower while spreading democracy throughout the Middle East.

In his 2003 State of the Union, Bush states that "Either you're with us, or you're with the terrorists." In March 2003, the U.S. invades Iraq and, at first, the war appears to be a success. Bush gives his infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech on an aircraft carrier. When it becomes clear that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Bush learns that the responsibility for finding them had been relegated far down the chain of command. Bush also discovers that Saddam Hussein gambled his regime and his life on the assumption that Bush was bluffing. Bush is asked in a press conference what mistakes he made as President, a question that leaves him flustered and speechless.

Bush has a nightmare in which his father accuses him of ruining the Bush legacy, which he claims was intended for Jeb. Later, he dreams of playing center field in a baseball game. A pop fly is hit in his direction. As Bush attempts to catch it, the ball disappears.

Cast



Production

Director Oliver Stone was originally attached to direct Pinkville, a film about the Army's investigation of the My Lai Massacremarker, but development was canceled due to the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike and actor Bruce Willis pulling out of the film three weeks before shooting was set to start. As a result, United Artists shut the production down. Stone moved on to direct a film about the life and presidency of George W. Bush, shopping a script that had been written before the strike by Stanley Weiser, who had co-written Wall Street with Stone. Weiser and Stone read 17 books as part of their research for the script, and worked on the project for a year before venturing to film Pinkville. Stone has admitted that he and Weiser had to speculate on some dialogue: "You take all the facts and take the spirit of the scene and make it accurate to what you think happened". W. was financed independently, with Hong Kongmarker, Germanmarker, and Australian funds. Lions Gate Entertainment distributed the film.Though Stone has criticized Bush for his administration's 2003 invasion of Iraqmarker, the director said that he was not looking to make an "anti-Bush polemic." Stone compared his goal of the film to that of The Queen, wanting to trace "seminal events in Bush's life." According to the director, "It's a behind-the-scenes approach, similar to Nixon, to give a sense of what it's like to be in his skin. But if Nixon was a symphony, this is more like a chamber piece, and not as dark in tone." He described the structure of W. as a three-act film starting with Bush as a young man "with a missed life", followed by his transformation and "an assertion of will which was amazingly powerful" as he came out from his father's shadow, and finally his invasion of Iraq.

The film, originally titled Bush, was re-titled W. Filming began on May 12, 2008 in Shreveportmarker, Louisianamarker, and completed filming on July 11, 2008. On May 13, 2008 the New York Post published excerpts from an early draft of the script. The column, written by Cindy Adams, stated “Pro-Bushies will hate it, antis will love it.”

The film was released on October 17, 2008, before the presidential election. W. 's producers reportedly ran television spots for the film opposite Republican Party presidential nominee John McCain's ads in the fall of 2008.

News anchorwoman Anne Pressly of KATVmarker 7 in Little Rock, Arkansasmarker, played the role of a pundit based on Ann Coulter but given a fictitious name. On October 20, three days after W. was released in theaters, she was found beaten and unconscious in her home. She died of her injuries five days later. The motive for the attack was deemed most likely a robbery, and that her notability played no role in her being targeted.

Reception

W. has received mixed to positive reviews from film critics. According to Rod Liddle, almost all of the better reviewers in Britain either openly derided the film or criticized it without praising a single point. However, most of the reviews praise Brolin's performance. As of April 3, 2009, Rotten Tomatoes reports a "fresh" rating, with 60 percent of critics giving the film positive write-ups, based upon a sample of 196, with an average score of 6.1/10. The website summarized the reviews of the film by calling it "A surprisingly sympathetic portrayal of the 43rd American president, W. is fascinating in spots, but merely rudimentary as a whole." At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film has received an average score of 56, based on 36 reviews.

Giving the film four stars in his review, Roger Ebert wrote that it was "fascinating" and praised all the actors, noting that Richard Dreyfuss, in particular, was "not so much a double as an embodiment" of Dick Cheney. In contrast, Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post called the film "a rushed, wildly uneven, tonally jumbled caricature."Film critic James Berardinelli negatively compared the film with Saturday Night Live skits, saying of the actors that "None of them are as dead-on as Tina Fey as Sarah Palin."

The Monthly film critic Luke Davies spoke highly of Josh Brolin's performance but criticized Oliver Stone's portrayal of the story, writing "The unexamined life is not worth living; in Stone's interpretation, Bush's life has been worthless. And this makes it hard to get a grip on the film's central character. The fault lies not with Brolin but with the material he's been given. There's no interior exploration. The point, no doubt, is that Stone believes there's nothing to explore; certainly, Bush has learnt nothing by the end of the film. But audiences want more, especially in biopics that are critical of their subjects." Davies observed that "when weighed against Stone's body of work, the film comes across as decidedly placid, as if, aware of the contentious subject matter, Stone wanted to make a movie where he couldn't, for once, be accused of generating leftist hysteria." Davies grapsed that "the film portrays a man who had no real sense of what government might be: that glorious dream of fairness imagined, for all its flaws, by the founding fathers" but that this is lost in the film's entirety, describing Stone's "canvas [as] too broad, and W is like the highlights reel of one man's powerful life."

The Bush administration never officially commented on the film. Former Floridamarker Governor Jeb Bush, who is portrayed in the film, called the Oedipal rivalry "high-grade, unadulterated hooey" and said that Stone's exploration of the family dynamic could have benefited from actual conversations with the Bush family. Slate Magazine's Timothy Noah, however, noted that "most [of] the film's more ludicrous details" are actually directly taken from non-fiction sources, and argued that the film was too kind to Bush in omitting certain historically recorded dramatic events, most notably Bush's mocking of murderer Karla Faye Tucker, a woman put to death during his tenure of the Texan governorship, to interviewer Tucker Carlson.

The film appeared on some critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2008. Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News named it the eighth best film of 2008, and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times named it on his top 20 list (he did not assign rankings).

The film opened #4 behind The Secret Life of Bees, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, and Max Payne, respectively with $10,505,668 from 2,030 theaters with a $5,175 average. The film had a budget of $25.1 million and grossed $25,534,493 in North America, and $3,401,242 internationally.

References

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