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Film: W
a life misunderestimated

W. (pronounced "Dubya" note ) is a 2008 Biopic of George W. Bush that was directed by Oliver Stone and written by his Wall Street screenwriter Stanley Weiser.

It tells the story of Bush's life from his college years to his Presidency, but is based around his administration's push for the war with Iraq. Josh Brolin stars as George W. Bush, with Elizabeth Banks as Laura Bush, James Cromwell as George H.W. Bush, and Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney. It is a largely sympathetic portrayal of the man, but also has a bit of a satiric edge.

The film is notable for being the first Presidential Biopic to be released while said President was still in office. Understandably, the film faced a good deal of controversy when (and even before) it was released. Conservatives accused it of being liberal propaganda, and many liberals accused Stone of being too soft on Bush. (Basically, the same criticisms Stone received for Nixon.) It recieved mixed, but still generally positive reviews, with lots of praise for the uncanny performances by Brolin, Cromwell, and Dreyfuss.

Oliver Stone was later told by Bill Clinton that he had loaned Bush his DVD of W. and that Bush found some parts very sad but liked the film very much.


This film provides examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Bush is shown to be quite the drinker in his youth, apparently stemming from a hazing incident from college.
  • Anachronic Order: The movie jumps back and forth in time between Bush's early years and the buildup to the Iraq war.
  • Artistic License - History: Deliberately invoked; many of Bush's famous Malapropers are moved to different points in time for comic purposes.
  • Artistic License - Medicine: W is shown coughing in the scene where he is apparently choking on a pretzel. If he is coughing, it means he is breathing. And if he is breathing, he is not choking. That, and at no point are his lips turning blue.
  • Background Halo: While praying after giving the order to invade Iraq, a low-angle shot makes a light in the ceiling look like a halo around Bush's head, and then the light goes off.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Bush Jr. confronts and challenges his father at least twice, and eventually remarks that he only answers to a higher, celestial father.
  • Disease Bleach: The stress Bush is under ages him quite a bit.
  • The Ditz: Downplayed, while W is not the sharpest knife in the drawer and is able to get lost in his own ranch, the film doesn't bash Bush in this regard, unlike contemporary portrayals of the man.
  • Enhanced Interrogation Techniques: Dick Cheney uses the trope name in a scene where he has Bush sign an order authorizing it.
  • Everything Is Big in Texas: The Yellow Rose of Texas is used as a boisterous leitmotif for W, who is quite proud of his Midland heritage and is made very upset when he loses a congressional race in the region:
    Bush: “There’s no way I’ll ever be out-Texaned or out-Christianed again!”
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Dubya and Jeb, respectively.
  • Freudian Excuse: One of the criticisms leveled at the film by Liberals was in its near-complete reliance on this to explain Bush's flaws. George Sr. is a well-meaning but emotionally distant father unable to have a face to face talk with his son, who feels haunted by the disdain well into his so called adulthood. His mother Barbara barely hides her criticism and scorn. See also The Unfavorite and "Well Done, Son" Guy.
  • Game of Nerds: While not many people would call George Bush a nerd per se, his love of baseball is a constant theme throughout.
  • Godwin's Law: Cheney is very fond of Hitler analogies.
  • Imagine Spot: Bush is often seen imagining himself as a baseball star.
  • Hannibal Lecture: After Powell rips apart his entire strategy on Iran, Dick Cheney's speech to the cabinet on how to best create an American empire in the Middle East.
  • Happily Married:
    • George and Laura.
    • George Sr. and Barbara.
  • Hidden Depths: Dubya is not a simpleton or as goofy as he appears, while he's presented as a Man Child with daddy issues who is over his head who makes stupid mistakes, he's also shown to be savvy and reflective about some things, from time to time, and generally means very well.
  • Idle Rich: W is born with a silver spoon and wants to change this image - first trying his hand at being an oil worker, before quitting after slacking off too much. Before running for Governor of Texas, Karl Rove remarks that W has not done a thing in his life.
  • It's Personal: Bush Sr. always left personal feelings out of politics, but Saddam made him change this approach. The son inherits the feud and is set to conclude it.
  • Left Hanging: Literally. At the end of the film, after he embarasses himself by being unable to answer a reporter when she asks him what his biggest mistake was while in office, Bush has another baseball fantasy where he runs to catch a long fly ball which never comes down.
  • Logical Fallacies: Rumsfeld smugly uses "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence", which in due context is a valid argument, but in the movie he invokes it during the discussion about the WMDs and comes off as a gung-ho handwave.
  • Malaproper: The amount of Bushisms present in the movie is not to be misunderstimated
    You need to teach a child to read... then he or her will be able to pass a literacy test
    Rarely is the question asked, is our children learning?
    We got this Guantanemera open
    Fool me once, shame on... you? Now fool me twice and... ya can't get fooled again.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Despite Bush making it quite clear that he is supposed to be "The Decider", either Dick Cheney or Karl Rove are usually shown to be the brains behind most of the White House's decisions.
  • Meet Cute: George and Laura first meeting at a friend's barbecue. Bush proves to be quite the charmer, getting Laura's number despite the fact that she describes herself a librarian who works on Democratic campaigns.
  • The Nicknamer: Shown in an early scene to call his cabinet members by names such as "Turdblossom", "Balloon Foot", etc. In a Flash Back to his frat days, this is shown to be his way to remember people's names.
  • Nice to the Waiter: While he isn't mean per se, Dubya does criticize a White House servant on being slow by seconds in bringing him a sandwich.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted. W is shown sitting on the toilet.
  • Only Sane Man: Colin Powell is portrayed as this.
  • Parental Favoritism: Bush Jr. believes that his parents have always favored Jeb over him.
  • Persona Non Grata: Brent Scowcroft, after the reporter expresses Bush Sr.'s concerns by proxy.
  • Pretext for War: Bush explains that his administration will bait Saddam and trump-up charges if it comes to that. Tony Blair is uneasy about it
  • Running Gag: Bush's habit of praying at the end of the meetings is presented as awkward and quirky, to the point that some of the attending find it odd and barely conceal their disbelief.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Bush Sr. intercedes for his son time and again. W is admitted to Harvard Business without knowing that his father pulled the strings.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: While he never states this outright, Dubya is NOT happy when he's told that Iraq didn't, and probably never did, have Weapons of Mass Destruction.
  • Toppled Statue: Saddam's. Discussed by Bush Sr. and Barbara during the symbolic overthrow. "Well, they got the statue but now they gotta catch the man."
  • Trailers Always Lie: The trailers made it out to be a surrealistic, mocking satire about a gibbering retard and his idiot presidency. The real film is much more serious and treats the main character as complex and with some sympathy.
  • The Unfavorite: In the film, Bush Sr. makes it quite clear that he wanted Jeb to be his political successor and considers Bush at times to be an embarrassment. This is driven home in Bush's second-to-last dream sequence, in when enters the Oval Office, only to find Bush Sr. sitting at the desk and mocking him.
  • The War on Terror: Afghanistan is regarded as an exercise and not as a real war and Cheney views the aftermath of 9/11 as an opportunity for Empire-building in the Middle East.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy:
    • Dubya, in spades.
      Laura: You helped him win the presidency. You gained his respect.
      George: No matter what I do, it's just never gonna be enough.
    • Implied with George Sr. in passing when he remarks that the only real thing he was ever given by his father was a pair of cufflinks.
  • With Us or Against Us: Said word for word by W. in regard to Iraq and the terrorists.
  • Yes Woman: Condoleezza Rice stands out as one of the most caricaturesque portrayals. She's also literally caricatured in-universe as this on a paper.


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