The story of ‘W’

Drunk driving, daddy issues and messages from God: it may sound more like a Lifetime movie than a biopic about the country’s president.

Oliver Stone’s long-awaited film W opens Friday. The film jumps back and forth in time as it tells three stories about George W. Bush (Josh Brolin): the party boy years, the Texas governorship and the first four years of his presidency.

The $30-million film took six weeks to shoot, beginning in May. After spending two months in post-production, the film opens 19 days before the presidential election. Given the timing, Stone’s record of politically charged films — such as JFK, Nixon and Born on the Fourth of July — and his endorsement of Obama, have left critics at media outlets across the country, like Entertainment Weekly, wondering what the impact of this film will be on the upcoming election.

Though the film’s title character isn’t up for reelection, some feel this film could have an impact on the Republican Party and John McCain’s campaign.

“The Democrats are always connecting McCain and Bush, (and) not just criticizing McCain but the Republican Party as a whole,” said Eunjung Choi, a political science professor. “His vote in Congress has been constantly with Bush — that’s how he got his Republican base. But now it’s coming back to haunt him.”

Stone has publicly promised that W will be a fair and true depiction of President Bush. He told CNN’s Larry King last week that he just wanted to understand the man.

“I couldn’t make a movie with hate or malice,” Stone said. “There is none in this movie. I see the guy as more like John Wayne, which is to say I don’t like his politics but he’s endearing in a strange, goofy, awkward way, and he did capture the imagination of the country.”

Despite Stone’s statement, many question whether an accurate portrayal would make a difference.

“Even if he does a neutral take, the president is not going to come out looking good,” said James Benton, a political science professor. “This will and already is having an impact on the McCain campaign. Many people think he’s going to just be a continuation of Bush.”  

In the first half of the film, Stone captures the goofiness of Bush and occasionally mixes it with more serious scenes. But during the second half, there is footage of the Baghdad bombing and scenes in which Bush is visiting wounded soldiers.

The film also features more controversial sides of the Bush administration: Cabinet meetings where Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss) suggests taking over the Middle East’s oil by gaining control of Iran and Iraq and a scene in which Bush tells the public that the country will be out of Iraq by June 30, 2004.

Ultimately, W’s impact on the election will largely depend on whether people see the film. With Bush’s approval rating at an all-time low of 24 percent, according to The New York Times, the American public may be too sick of him to sit through the two-hour film.

“Bush may turn out to be the worst president in history,” Stone said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, “but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a great story.”