Sunday, 23 November 2008
Escaped form the Rugby overspill on the streets of Twickenham and headed to the Richmond Odeon to see W. Oliver Stone's biopic about George Bush. It's a strange film, far too large in scale to go beyond cliche and over layered with weighted simplification. The cause and effect of this telling makes for an Oedipal epic, rather than a political analysis.
I'm fascinated by biopics, however, and do think they can bring an interpretation to history that is both revealing and meaningful. Alex Jennings played a far more astute Bush in David Hare's Stuff Happens, a play which, shockingly, through imagined dialogue, helped me realise how irrelevant the neo-cons found the diplomatic arguments of 'old' Europe. Hare gave us an early analysis of how quickly rumour and revenge become policy and order.
For now though, Peter Morgan is the man for me - his screenplay for The Queen - which might as well be called Tony - provided a fascinating analysis of the mood shift in Britain at the end of the nineties and recognised New Labour's opportunism in using Diana's death to further justify their social democratic mandate. It's a smashing film about celebrity, tradition and democracy.
Morgan's trick is to focus on a specific moment and forensically examine it. Biography tumbles out in response to the significant event. It's the formula that he repeats in Frost/Nixon (which is the next film on my hit list.) It's how we respond that makes us who we are. Not even Presidents can control history.
The final image of W. is a studied metaphor. George, suited in presidential elegance, fielding in the outfield, loses the baseball in the glare of the floodlights. For all his good ole boy Texan, people person, bonhomie, at key moments, 9/11, Katrina, Desert Storm - it's exactly what he did.
It's a salutary counter argument to that tenant of the American dream that anybody can grow up to be President.