W. parents guide

W. Parent Guide

Overall C+

Hitting theaters just as President George W. Bush prepares to leave the White House, the movie W. tells the story of the son of US President George H.W. Bush as he embarks upon his own political career. This dramatic film is not an authorized biography.

Release date October 17, 2008

Violence B-
Sexual Content B-
Profanity D
Substance Use D+

Why is W. rated PG-13? The MPAA rated W. PG-13 for language including sexual references, some alcohol abuse, smoking and brief disturbing war images.

Run Time: 130 minutes

Official Movie Site

Parent Movie Review

Director Oliver Stone put the rush on W. by completing the movie in an amazing 46 days—a brisk pace for a theatrical feature. Why the hurry? According to a New York Times interview on October 10, 2008, reporter Richard Berke paraphrases Stone by saying, “...he hopes his $25 million movie ... will somehow help Barack Obama, though he is not sure how.”

Reading this article after seeing the film only confirmed my initial impressions: W. is an agenda item from start to finish. The script offers a theorized view of history through imagined intimate and private discussions involving George W. Bush (Josh Brolin) in locations ranging from the bedroom to the war room. The story is constructed by inter-cutting scenes of Bush in cloistered discussions with his closest aides making plans for the Iraq war with moments from the President’s earlier years, emphasizing his struggle with alcohol. Flushing any sense of subtlety, the director uses the contrast of a boozing bozo versus Commander in Chief to ensure we get the message.

Certainly when dealing with a subject who is not only alive but still serving in office (unlike Stone’s earlier films about Nixon and Kennedy), it would be impossible to create a political piece that passes everyone’s test of objectivity. But in this case, the obvious disregard to hide partiality does the audience an injustice by assuming this semi-fictitious portrait will influence voters to favor his perspective.

For families, the best this movie may offer is a good exercise in detecting bias and thinking critically. Brolin’s performance is very convincing, so much so that we need to remember much of what is coming from his mouth is pure speculation. The musical score supports the director’s aversion toward his subject (“I got A’s ... he was a C student,” says Stone bitterly in the Times piece) by injecting an implied Texas ignorance through simplistic Americana tunes. Other characterizations—the most extreme being Thandie Newton’s personification of Condoleezza Rice as a simple puppet—border on insulting.

Yet this opportunity for media education comes with content that will prevent some families from engaging in the exercise. Language includes two sexual expletives, frequent scatological and religious profanities, along with other milder words. Bush drinks heavily to the point of aggressive drunkenness on many occasions, including while driving. Other characters also drink and smoke in scenes taking place in earlier time periods. Domestic squabbles, sometimes leading to violent scuffles, are included as well.

It’s unfortunate that, at a time when a thought provoking work of cinema could be very valuable, Oliver Stone has instead crafted a film unlikely to convince anyone to change his or her political preference. While this production may satisfy those already in the throngs of the discontented, it probably will only raise the ire of those who still insist W. is on the right track.

Starring Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks, Ioan Gruffudd. Running time: 130 minutes. Theatrical release October 17, 2008. Updated

Rating & Content Info

Why is W. rated PG-13? W. is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for language including sexual references, some alcohol abuse, smoking and brief disturbing war images.

This film about the life of George W. Bush frequently portrays its central character in states of extreme drunkenness resulting in aggressive behavior and reckless driving. A fraternity initiation ritual is depicted with men forced to sit naked in ice water and have liquor pored down their throats. Domestic disputes are portrayed between a father and son, and other verbal arguments are included. Men discuss an unwed pregnancy and an attempt to prevent it. Secondary characters drink and are seen smoking (especially during scenes set in the 60s and 70s). Frequent scatological profanities are heard, along with two sexual expletives, various milder profanities, and terms of deity. An obscene finger gesture is seen.

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W. Parents' Guide

Do you think movies like this may influence the real life political decisions people make? How does the use of actual archival footage with the actors portraying real political leaders help to make this film appear more “real?”

Home Video

The most recent home video release of W. movie is February 10, 2009. Here are some details…

Oliver Stone’s W. is inaugurated on DVD (full frame or widescreen) and Blu-ray (full frame and widescreen), with the following bonus materials: deleted scenes, an audio commentary by director Oliver Stone, the original theatrical trailer and featurettes (Dangerous Dynasty: The Bush Presidency and No Stranger to Controversy: Oliver Stone’s George W. Bush). There is also a W. Research and Annotations Guide presented on DVD-ROM.


Related home video titles:

Other famous people who have their lives adapted to film (and not as authorized biographies) include Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen, Hans Christian Andersen in My Life as a Fairytale and Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons.