Bulworth is a comedy with a tragic ending that builds on contradictions and misconceptions. A web of unexpected events fills the motion picture from the start until the very end. Be that Bulworth's wish to commit suicide and the way it's executed, or little things from his personal life, or how general public and the media react to senator's unexpected moves - viewers are always presented with a discrepancy between appearance and reality. In particular, there is a definite contrast between protagonist's public and private life. The media has distorted Bulworth's actual character presenting him in a light that exaggerates his genuine personality. The other characters in the film also exhibit contrary behaviors. The crux of the movie is based on the interplay between the actual and the perceived.
The movie opens with the scene of the Senator's office. Senator Jay Belington Bulworth, dressed in a rumpled suit, with his tousled hair and three-day bristle experiences an emotional breakdown while all the TV sets in his office are rolling his election campaign commercials. With all the festive hoopla on TV, the audience would expect him to be watching carefully, perhaps taking notes, and looking for ways to improve the tapes. Yet, the Senator turns into a complete mess as the sounds of hype blend into an annoying, monotonous noise. At this point he understands that the media projects an image totally different from who he is. Right from the very beginning the viewer is presented with a clear-cut line between the media portrayal of the Senator and the reality. The campaign commercials present him as a well groomed, personable, viable, and sophisticated politician. However, the opening scene portrays him in a different light: he is miserable in his mundane pursuit of centrism. The catchy idiom from his campaign: "Old liberal wine in a new conservative bottle," ironically reflects Bulworth's equivocal conduct towards his constituency.