George H. W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States, comes across as principled, affable, and an elder statesman in the best sense of the word in Jeffrey Roth’s HBO documentary, now available as a DVD release.
Bush recounts the story of his life in "41," starting from his first toddling steps at the family’s home in Kennebunkport, Maine. His life story, as told here, touches on all the major milestones: His time at private schools, his service during World War II, his college days at Yale, his time with Zapata Oil, and his political career, the apex being his election to the Oval Office in 1988.
Bush offers the kind of perspective in history and contemporary politics as only an insider can do, but on certain matters Bush and this documentary are conspicuously silent. There’s not a word about the Iran-Contra affair, and while Bush defends the first Iraq war by saying that Hussein would have invaded Saudi Arabia had the U.S. not intervened, he leaves the question of our motives largely unaddressed.
"41" is less portrait than a sketch, and certainly is no in-depth biopic. The DVD release offers no special features, and much of what the documentary has to tell us is available in books or online. The pleasure here is in hearing the man tell his story in his own words. Otherwise, this respectful but all-too-tame documentary is a minor resource that political junkies and history hounds will enjoy.