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From the man who brought you Gordon Gekko...

By Fiona Reynolds
Created 18/10/2008 - 14:16

From the man who brought you Gordon Gekko...

Forty-three years ago, two men enrolled at Yale University. One of them dropped out a year later, volunteered to fight in Vietnam, then made a movie about his experiences entitled Platoon. His name is Oliver Stone. The other dodged combat and went on to become the 43rd President of the United States. His name is George W. Bush.

If all this sounds like the premise of a Hollywood blockbuster, then it is – sort of. The movie is W., a Bush biopic that – and here’s the twist – is directed by Stone [1]. It will be released in America a mere 19 days before the 2008 presidential election and is the Times Gala film at this year’s Times BFI London Film Festival.

Of course, with Stone being a peacenik Buddhist liberal and Bush being a militaristic evangelical Christian Republican, the result isn’t expected to be in any way flattering to the departing leader of the free world. Then again, the pair have an awful lot more in common than you might think…

Oliver Stone's latest film W has just been released in the US. It covers the period from George W Bush's student days at Yale to 2004, the last year of his first presidential term. Its reception has, to put it mildly, been mixed. For example, the New York Times’ Manolah Dargis [2] has this to say:

The megamillion-dollar question that hovers over Oliver Stone’s queasily enjoyable “W.,” his Oedipal story about the rise and fall, fall, fall of George W. Bush is: why? Neither a pure (nor impure) sendup of the president nor a wholesale takedown, the film looks like a traditional biopic with all the usual trappings, including name actors in political drag — Josh Brolin plays the frat boy who would be king, while Richard Dreyfuss creeps around in a Dick Cheney sneer — alternately choking on pretzels and spleen, and reciting all the familiar lines and lies. History is said to repeat itself as tragedy and farce, but here it registers as a full-blown burlesque.

Mr. Stone’s take on the president, as comic as it is sincere, is bound to rile ax-grinders of every ideological stripe, particularly those who mistake fiction for nonfiction. History informs its narrative arc from Texas to Iraq, but it should go without saying that this is a work of imagination, a directorial riff on real people and places complete with emotion-tweaking music cues, slo-mo visuals and portentous symbolism. It says nothing new or insightful about the president, his triumphs and calamities. (As if anyone goes to an Oliver Stone movie for a reality check.) But it does something most journalism and even documentaries can’t or won’t do: it reminds us what a long, strange trip it’s been to the Bush White House.

Not surprisingly, Jeb Bush doesn’t like the film one little bit [3]:

Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, criticised Stone's depiction of the father-son relationship and the perceived psychological motivation of his brother.

"The Oedipal rivalry is high-grade, unadulterated hooey," he told the Washington Times.

Jeb Bush, who, according to Stone's film, was regarded by his parents as the son with more promise, asked why the director and Stanley Weiser, who wrote the W script, had not spoken directly with family members.

"I didn't receive a call," Mr Bush said.

It was unclear whether he had actually seen the film, which stars Josh Brolin as resident Bush and was released on Friday in the US.

I haven’t been able to find out when W is due for release in Australia, but I can hardly wait.

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