January 23, 2021
How long before a Donald Trump biopic? Meanwhile, from young Obama to stately Abraham Lincoln, some White House incumbents fare better than others on the big screen
Streaming: the best movie portrayals of US presidents
At long last, Donald Trump is out of the White House. His story, one suspects, is far from over: any screenwriters hovering eagerly to write the quintessential film about America’s 45th president would be best advised to keep their powder dry. But write they eventually will – the presidential biopic practically being the due of most men who have held the position, however eventfully or otherwise. Few stick around for long in the popular imagination: when last did you have the urge to watch Merchant Ivory’s dreary Jefferson in Paris (1995; not even streamable) or Ron Howard’s righteously bland Frost/Nixon (2008; iTunes)?
Cinema has certainly done a lot for Richard Nixon, who got one of the funniest of all Hollywood political satires in Andrew Fleming’s smart, fleet Dick (1999; Google Play), as well as the greatest of all “straight” presidential biopics in Oliver Stone’s wild, wavy Nixon (1995; Chili). A brashly ambitious, messy sprawl about a brashly ambitious, messy man, it takes great liberties of psychological interpretation to humanise Tricky Dick while still holding him rigidly to account. Stone couldn’t quite summon up the same dark majesty for George W Bush in 2008’s cartoonishly absorbing but strangely lightweight W. (YouTube), a strike-while-the-iron’s-hot effort that gave itself no distance from Dubya’s reign to really consider his legacy – though it’s already a fascinating time capsule.
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