Joe and I took in the new Oliver Stone flick “W.” last night and I kind of had mixed feelings about it.

Although it’s quite obvious where Stone’s political allegiances lie (along with most of Hollywood, I imagine), the film does at least attempt to show a human side to good ol’ George Bush Jr. Despite myself, I actually felt for the guy. Underneath it all, according to Stone, he’s just a man trying to earn the love and attention of a cold, hard-to-please dad. A man who feels he was “called by God” to become president and who is just trying to do what he thinks is right (and avenge his daddy’s honour at the same time).

The problem is that he ends up surrounded by a manipulative cast of characters who don’t have the same “noble” intentions. And poor Junior can’t seem to see through their slick machinations…or perhaps he’d rather watch baseball than think too hard about it. The main man behind the curtain is Vice President Dick Cheney (played by Richard Dreyfuss) and his speech while the team discusses invading Iraq is particularly chilling (SPOILER – there never was an exit strategy). And if there is a figure more tragic than W himself in this movie, it would be Secretary of State Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright). General Powell sells his soul (and his chance at the presidency) when he gives into the bullying gang and pleads their faulty case to the U.N.

As the cringe-worthy story unfolded, I thought about how strange it was to be watching a biopic about a president who is still sitting in office. Other presidents have at least had the benefit of some distance and a few decades of retirement before their life story is made available for the masses (or, in the case of Primary Colours, a thinly veiled pseudonym). It seems a little preemptive, even in today’s era of the immediate, 24-hour news cycle.

In the end, the movie feels more like a smug inside joke. “Ha, ha, look at Cheney gloss over prisoner interrogation methods that would later come back to haunt them” or “isn’t that Rob Corddry from The Daily Show as Ari Fleischer?”

Yes, we know that electing (and then re-electing) Dubya was perhaps not the best choice that America could have made. And yes, we know that shaky (and perhaps shady) evidence was used to justify invading Iraq. And yes, we know that it’s now become a Vietnam-esque quagmire that is going to take years, if not decades, to clean up…

…but how much hindsight can we truly have when the story is still being written?

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