Bush's Brain

"Weak"

Bush's Brain Review


The line of reasoning goes like this: George Bush is an idiot, yet he's now happily perched in the White House; the only reason he's there has to be the dark, Svengali-like figure who's masterminded his rise to power, Karl Rove. This theory is posed in the opening scene of the nervy documentary Bush's Brain, which shows Bush being treated to all the pomp and circumstance of his office, before plastering a question on the screen: "How did this happen?" What the filmmakers promise is an investigation into the mind and methods of Rove, the GOP puppetmaster, but what is actually delivered is much, much less - proving once again that Rove always wins.

Bush's Brain is based on the book of the same name by Wayne Slater, Dallas Morning News bureau chief in Austin and TV correspondent James C. Moore, both of whom are extensively interviewed in the film. Both long-time Texan journalists, they've been covering Bush and Rove for years - the wry Slater is especially engaging and sharp-witted, as he proved before in the documentary Journeys with George - and it's in the Texas-based sections of the film that it's most successful.

A nerdy political consultant with an acid tongue, a zealot's conviction and a long memory for enemies and slights, Rove seems to have played dirty ever since his years in the College Republicans during the 1970s. This is good for the film because it provides a laundry list of slighted adversaries willing to hold forth on the man.

The evidence piles up fast: a 1986 election in which Rove likely faked a wiretapping of his own office, creating a scandal that turned things in his candidate's favor, partisan-motivated FBI investigations of Rove's rivals, and the "whisper campaign" of scurrilous rumors against Ann Richards, who Bush defeated in the 1994 governor's race. (This last was a tactic used again pretty successfully by Rove in the 2000 South Carolina primary that featured rumors of John McCain having an illegitimate black child.) Unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot of rock-solid proof to go around, and once the film tries to draw conclusions about Rove after he rode Bush's coattails to Washington, it founders.

There's no end of people in Bush's Brain willing to talk about how certain things seemed to have Rove's handiwork (or what's called in Washington, "The mark of Rove"), but should it be any surprise that this pudgy little Machiavellian didn't leave a whole lot of evidence behind? The film contains connections and coincidences aplenty, but its central thesis, that Rove is the brains behind the president, is already very widely known. The lack of a smoking gun seems to force the filmmakers - who have already managed to take a large pile of juicy political gossip and turn it into a dull, meandering mess - to overreach.

As a case in point, the filmmakers, in an unusually magnanimous gesture, provide excerpts of a lengthy fax that Rove sent the authors refuting most of their accusations (not surprisingly, Rove had obtained a copy of the book before it was even published). However, the fair-handedness of including Rove's own words is torpedoed by the awful decision to have them read in a whiny, vaguely evil voiceover. The directors' lack of art is most apparent, though, during a pointless sidebar on a Marine who died in Iraq. If the film had managed to prove beforehand that Rove had masterminded the war to solidify Bush's stature, then it would have made for a meaningful coda; as it stands, however, the moment is just a shameless tug at the heartstrings.

If this is all Rove's enemies could muster, he's got nothing to fear.

Reviewed at the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival. The DVD of the film includes about 20 minutes of extra interviews.



Bush's Brain

Facts and Figures

Run time: 80 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 13th March 2004

Distributed by: Tartan Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 63%
Fresh: 30 Rotten: 18

IMDB: 6.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

The 2012 Canadian comedy Goon was one of those surprising little films that snuck up...

Detroit Movie Review

Detroit Movie Review

After The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal reteam to...

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back...

American Made Movie Review

American Made Movie Review

An enjoyably freewheeling tone and Tom Cruise's star wattage combine to make this an entertaining...

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

Advertisement
The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.