Those of you expecting Oliver Stone's George Bush biopic, W., to be a merciless hatchet job on our sitting President will be surprised (and I suspect some of you will also be disappointed) to learn that the movie doesn't aim to eviscerate Bush as much as it wants us to understand him. I think it's a smart approach—after all, what could Oliver Stone possibly do to tarnish the image of George Bush that George Bush hasn't already done for himself, a President with the worst disapproval rating in modern American history and all?
Conservatives stayed away from W. in droves (only 10% of the opening-weekend audience was comprised of them), but they don't have to. The movie's criticisms of Bush and his presidency are not at all revisionist or particularly incendiary, since the somber facts are common knowledge (there were no weapons of mass destruction, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove are manipulating masterminds, etc.).
Where the film shows its journalistic chops is in digging into Bush's past—his younger years as a reckless, drinking, spoiled brat; his sweetly dramatized courtship of Laura; and, especially, his continued inability to rise above his father's poor image of him. Even after reaching the top, against all odds and logic, to become leader of the free world, he still fucks up in his father's eyes (and with the whole world watching, which makes it even worse), elevating the movie (which is perhaps a tad too long) to Greek tragedy. George Bush is played with biting humor and deep sympathy by Josh Brolin, and, in the end, you can't help but feel a bit sorry for W., which may be the most controversial thing about the film: