Saturday, March 10, 2012

REVIEW: Will HBO’s ‘Game Change’ make you see the 2008 election differently?

I love a movie that makes you think – and that’s exactly what HBO’s ‘Game Change’ accomplishes.

‘Game Change’ revolves around the presidential campaign of Senator John McCain and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. As everyone probably remembers, Palin was catapulted onto the American stage during the election process – a spot she has not ceded in the almost four year since.

The first thing to note about the movie is that it is still entertainment. No matter what really happened, things have been elevated (and maybe even fabricated) to appeal to the masses.

The thing I will say about HBO is that their movies are a step above other television movies. In other words, this isn’t some Lifetime television for women schlock.

I know it’s impossible to talk about the movie and ignore politics, but what I found most interesting about the endeavor were the character profiles – and not the politics.

The always-reliable Ed Harris plays McCain. If I can be shallow for a moment, I’ve always had a weird thing for Harris ever since ‘The Abyss.’ No, I can’t explain it. He was practically unrecognizable as McCain, though – and since Harris is such a warm performer he made me remember the things I truly liked about McCain. Essentially, I always thought of McCain as a good man and, more importantly, an American hero.

However, even though McCain was the presidential nominee, much like the actual campaign he loses the spotlight to Palin. The movie revolves around her and McCain’s staff more than anything else.

Palin is played with aplomb by Julianne Moore, who does such an overwhelming physical transformation it’s hard not to believe you’re actually not watching the real thing in the film.

From a pure cinematography viewpoint, I was impressed with the way the film editor managed to cut in actual footage of President Barack Obama, ‘Saturday Night Live’ skits and interviews from years ago.

From a content viewpoint, I’m going to be honest, I’m not sure how much has been exaggerated and how much is 100 percent true. I know that I enjoyed it, though.

Watching the movie made me nostalgic about the time period – mostly because it was such an exciting time in American politics.  Either way, whoever won, we were going to have a first. We were either going to have the first African American president or the first female vice-president.

So, on to the nitty-gritty.  Moore’s portrayal of Palin makes the viewer swing widely to opposite poles.
On one hand, you’re immediately drawn to Palin’s charisma and her folksy likeability. The movie portrays Palin as simple person in a complex world that is not willing to deviate from her beliefs. As a woman, I like that.
On the other hand, Palin seems to have some personality issues in the movie. She’s obstinate and misinformed in a lot of instances.

I vividly remember Palin’s Katie Couric interview – and the film pulls no punches in that respect.  Woody Harrelson portrays Steve Schmidt, a campaign analyst who worked on McCain’s campaign.  Schmidt is actually the other lead in the movie. It’s his dynamic with Palin that is thoroughly explored throughout the film – and it most definitely has some miraculous highs and some desperate lows. The Couric interview is one of them.

I’m not going to pretend that everything portrayed in the movie is 100 percent accurate. I know Palin has come out against the movie – but I also know she did before she even saw it.

The most important thing about the movie is that I don’t see it as a hatchet job on Palin. She certainly has some low moments in the movie, but she also has some great strengths.

First and foremost, the movie portrays Palin as a wonderful and devoted mother – which I have no doubt she is in real life.  Some people may argue that the movie shows Palin as being stupid, or unintelligent. I see the opposite. I gained a certain amount of sympathy for Palin being thrust in the spotlight and being expected to somehow know everything about foreign and domestic policy in a few short weeks. That’s an impossible task, and I think that’s what the movie shows.

The other thing that others may point to as a negative in the film is Palin’s forceful nature. You know what? I identify with that. While I might not agree with everything she says, I believe she has the right to say whatever she wants and believe whatever she wants. Palin is not someone that backs down from her beliefs, and that’s something to be applauded.

Will the movie change your opinion, whatever it is, about Palin? Probably not. If you like her you’re still going to like her and if you don’t, you probably still won’t.

The central question of the movie is whether or not Palin was equipped to be the vice-president – and ultimately the president -- should something happen. What I find interesting about the film is it doesn’t try to answer it for you; it lets you come up with your own decision.

That’s what American politics is all about, after all. Right?

What did you think? Is ‘Game Change’ worth watching?


Blogger Vicki said...

I really enjoyed the film. I did think it portrayed Palin in a sympathetic way. I think I appreciated her more (I voted for Obama/Biden in '08) for her as a "person" and for the "genius" of her selection by the McCain campaign who desparately needed a "game changer" in view of the personal popularity of Obama. What is abundantly clear is that American politics is extremely opportunistic (blame the fickle voters for that) and politicians will frequently make decisions based on polls and focus groups without understanding the "forest for the trees" so that unqualified and underqualified candidates run and can get spikes of enormous popular support that magnifies their candidacy (witness the ups and downs of Republican Presidential candidates in the 2012 Primary season). This is also true for President Obama, who was elevated to extremes by voters and the media at the time of his election in 2008, but who experienced the falling out of enthusiastic voters as the going got tough and high expectations were not met. I personally thought Palin was initially sincere but unqualified for VP, however she was thrust onto the national stage as a "potential President" and her life changed forever. She is an egocentric person and rather than look at building her resume and knowledge by finishing her term as Governor of Alaska and running for Congress or the Senate, she chose to double-down on her celebrity status to enrich her family. The film also showed these tendancies quite well and were one of the reasons Halperin and Wallace and others in the McCain campaign "turned" on her.

March 11, 2012 at 8:19 AM 
Blogger john said...

the film is the "new and improved Sarah hatchet job." Why does Hollywood still feel the need to hatchet job Sarah Palin? Is it the liberal fear of small town small city Americans that love Sarah Palin? She ain't over yet.

March 11, 2012 at 11:21 AM 
Blogger Tex Allen said...

Amanda Lee is correct about HBO creating high quality movies.

March 11, 2012 at 1:51 PM 
Blogger RC said...

I voted for McCain/Palin. I was in love with her when she hit the political scene. I was one of those Hillary supporters who got so mad at the Democrats for throwing Hillary under the bus, that I thought it was such a bold political move for McCain to choose a woman, (a feisty/head strong) woman as his running mate, so they won my vote. I respected Palin over the years, for enduring more attacks than any other political woman (aside from Hillary). The movie helped me to have more insight into her dynamic personality. Being a mother, I know that 4+ mos after the birth of a child, your body goes through hormonal changes, for Palin this was her 5th, coupled with her obsession with her weight, giving up much needed carbohydrates which feeds the brain energy, and living on diet soda, I am sure she had her 'moments' and mood swings, which the movie portrayed. Between a chemical imbalance and the obvious stress put upon her, it's no wonder she had a few meltdowns. I really don't think this was exaggerated in the film. I've been there myself, and I'm not on the world stage. With that said, I think she exudes much strength, confidence and ambition. But she was a bit 'unrefined' politically with respect to knowledge of world politics. Her experience came from local politics, small town stuff, and then being the executive of an isolated state, Alaska, which has a completely different culture then mainland USA. Sure, with that said, you can't expect her to know everything about America's domestic and foreign policy in such a short amount of time. Too bad she didn't have more time to study for the role of VP. However, with that said, I am glad that she wasn't elected, because of her lack of experience and knowledge. Even today, I think her opinions on Fox are out of touch, particularly with the present GOP primary. I don't think she lost McCain the election, no matter who McCain would have partnered with, it was Obama's destiny to win. I think that Palin helped McCain in numbers in the end, in spite of what they were up against, with the downturn of the economic meltdown. If it wasn't for that event so close to the election, they may have had a chance, because McCain was leading in the polls before the economy crashed. The Independents and 20% of conservatives voted against the GOP because they blamed Bush, which was impossible for McCain/Palin to recover, even if she said everything perfect and had all the knowledge in the world, they still would have lost to the Democrat.

Now, this year, that's another story....Obama had his chance, had his more than 15 min of fame, made his mark, and he's on his way out....time for someone else to steer the ship, who in my opinion will end up being Governor Romney.

March 11, 2012 at 1:58 PM 
Blogger john said...

you guys are missing the point. The stature of a conservative leader is measured by the level length and ferocity of the left media's hatchet jobs. Simple as that. (the left doesn't care how bad they do it...they just believe they chould keep doing hatchet jobs)

March 11, 2012 at 4:08 PM 

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