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HBO presents
Journeys with George (2003)

"I started out as a cowboy. I'm now a statesman."
- Governor George W. Bush, on the Presidential campaign trail in 2000

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: February 22, 2004

Stars: Alexandra Pelosi, George W. Bush
Other Stars: Karl Rove, Karen Hughes, John McCain, Dick Cheney, Laura Bush
Director: Alexandra Pelosi

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:15m:42s
Release Date: February 24, 2004
UPC: 026359227523
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B BB-C+ D-

DVD Review

The heroic days of the press, the glory years of things like All the President's Men, are a distant memory now. We've got about as much disdain for members of the media as we do for politicians—a plague on both their houses—and they come together in this revealing documentary from the 2000 campaign trail. The upshot is: there's no politics in our politics. It's all a beauty pageant, a horse race, a dog-and-pony show; this isn't disillusioning to any of us anymore, but it is still a little sad.

The George of the film's title is of course George W. Bush, and taking the journey with him, camcorder in hand, is Alexandra Pelosi, a producer for NBC News. The Clinton Administration's days were dwindling, and before we all came to know and love Katherine Harris, the battle was joined in earnest: first by Bush against John McCain for the Republican nomination, then in the general election against Al Gore.

The gripping drama here of course isn't who's going to win; what will keep you watching is the portrait painted of the participants. Pelosi and Governor Bush have a good deal in common, in fact—both come from political families (Pelosi's mother, Nancy, is now the Democratic Minority Leader in the House of Representatives), both have this in their blood, both have grand ambitions. But one of them is pressing the flesh, while the other is riding in the back of the bus. Pelosi's occasional faux naïf posture doesn't serve her or her audience well—she knows the process, and we know it too—but she paints a vivid and damning portrait of the press corps. They're shepherded around by the Bush team like so many docile animals, forced to listen to the same stump speech from the candidate, over and over and over again, and to eat the same damn turkey sandwiches day after day, seemingly for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It has to have bred a weird kind of political claustrophobia: travel to Iowa, or New Hampshire, or South Carolina or Texas or California, and end up in exactly the same place with exactly the same people.

Pelosi's access to Bush is limited, and she and we spend a bit more time with some of her colleagues—the Governor even razzes her on occasion on a possible budding romance between her and a Newsweek correspondent. (Sadly for our heroine, he's got a girlfriend at home somewhere.) A couple of things are striking, though: whatever the politics of the journalists, you sense that their professional stars are tied to Bush, and that if he does well, they'll do well. Pelosi can ask tough questions, but they can't be too tough; her job is "maintaining my network's relationship with the candidate." And of course this is the pre-9/11 Bush, forever self-consciously Texan, backslapping, giving everyone nicknames, talking about his ranch or the Rangers, showing off his cowboy boots. (Lest you think that the title of the film is disparaging, it was suggested by Bush himself.)

We still long for the days of retail politics, and harbor the illusion every four years, in New Hampshire and Iowa especially, that we can look a candidate in the eye and take the measure of the man. (Or woman.) But Journeys with George shows you what too much contemporary politics is all about: slogging from photo op to photo op, and making sure that Campbell Brown's makeup looks right. God bless America.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: All the footage was shot on Pelosi's camcorder—candidate Bush would occasionally grab the camera himself, and he shares a cinematography credit—so it's not high end and glossy, but it looks adequate and clear.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Pelosi's occasional appearance on the narration track is jacked up a little too loudly, but otherwise the sound is what you might expect, a cut above your own home videos.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. DVD credits
Extras Review: The only extra you'll find are credits for the DVD, hidden under an HBO Video logo on the top right corner of the main menu.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Tart up C-SPAN a little bit and you've got Journeys with George, an entertaining documentary that shows us a side of our president that's usually kept tightly under wraps, and probably confirms every worst prejudice we've all got about the media.


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