Monday, October 27, 2008

W., the Movie

(Please first click on this link to go to my nightmare scenario for the Electoral College, as posted on the Huffington Post. I'd appreciate your visit and your comment. Thanks!)

Yesterday, we went to see W.--the new film by Oliver Stone about the current tenant in our White House. Having seen Stone's earlier movies, I was expecting frankly something more tendentious in its political leaning. What I got was more of a character study, the portrait of a man constantly trying to make up for his wasted younger years with a fear of failure so intense that the ends up courting it. Dominated by a father whose standards he can never satisfy, hiding his inner insecurities with macho shows of bravado, Stone's W comes off as more pathetic and ineffectual than ill-intentioned, manipulated by others who use his malleability as the vehicle for their own nefarious needs, notably Karl Rove and Dick Cheney.

Stone's movie effectively focuses on the story of the Iraq war--its boastful assumptions, its incompetent pursuit, its eventual descent into impenetrable chaos--as a kind of necessary projection of the Bush character. Aside from oblique references, and much to its credit, I think, it avoids the temptation to exploit the 9/11 disaster. I thought it succeeded very well in what it attempted, but felt uncomfortable about making a "story" out of the Bush debacle. It reduced the scope of the effects of his presidency to a character flaw--mythical in dimension, yes, but somehow intimate and personal in comparison to the vast damage his tenure in office has wrought in the real world. I wanted something bigger in its reach, in the light of this historical moment, perhaps more damning than this very humanly compassionate portrayal.

Sounds un-Buddhist, no? But for me, in this instance, it's not about the man; it's about the planet and the survival of all living species, including our own, which have been needlessly endangered by this one man's blind arrogance and presumption of divine approval. The damage is far more extensive and potentially catastrophic than the Iraq war, and I think for this reason that "W" gets off much too lightly in Stone's movie. He's human-scale. The fallout of his reign is global.


heartinsanfrancisco said...

This is exactly why I don't want to see the movie. Everything I have heard about it indicates that it is a character study, whether sympathetic or not is irrelevant, really, because it happens that this particular character has been in a unique position to create multidimensional disasters around the globe. I don't see how explaining the twisted dynamic that produced this man could possibly begin to cover it.

carly said...

Seems to me both of you are overlooking a brilliant Stone approach. He HAS devastated the man, made a mockery of him, and touched a human sense of the flawed, while teaching, not preaching, what can go wrong when the viewer, the voter is dumb. All this and more, W teaches Republicans.