Game Change Reviews
Overall, a well made movie. Julianne Moore does wonderfully in her attempt to add color to the most colorful character in recent politics, and Woody Harrelson proves again that he is one of the finest actors of the generation. Entertaining and fun, in a History channel sort of way.
Follows John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, from his selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate to their ultimate defeat in the general election.
John McCain (Ed Harris) is the Republican candidate for President in 2008 and his platform lacks popular support: Barack Obama is clearly a celebrity frontrunner destined to win the election. It is the idea of political strategist Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson in a brilliant performance) to find something to garner public support - and he and his colleague Rick Davis (Peter Macnicol) land with the idea of finding a woman candidate to pull the women's votes. They select Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (Julianne Moore in a bravura performance), do a very poor job of screening her qualifications, and suddenly Palin is the running mate; the crowds love her, she speaks to people in small places, and uses all her personal baggage to her advantage.
The problems begin when it becomes obvious that she lacks intelligence, is severely uninformed about foreign policy, the economic crisis, the Federal government, the various wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and terrorism, and in general is a source of embarrassment whenever she opens her mouth in an interview or debate, despite the courageous attempts to coach her by correspondent Nicolle Wallace (Sarah Paulson) and Mark Wallace (Rick Livingston). She takes notes on cards, trying to learn politics, but continues to make gross statements to the press and the public. She begins to crumble, giving signs of mental illness, and cannot cope with the criticism and the absence of her family. Ultimately she is given a script to memorize in case she is asked any questions. She seems to means well but she simply is unfit for office. The film ends with McCain's defeat and Palin's fury that she can't make a concession speech! The pacing of the action is brisk and the cast handles the delicacy of a biopic with sensitivity. Julianne Moore's sensitive portrayal never stoops to mockery but simply shows all sides of the strange personality and mind of Sarah Palin. The film relives a fascinating moment in American history, one that hopefully will never be repeated.
Using a first rate script, director Jay Roach keeps things moving, telling the tale of one of the major faux paux of recent memory. McCain didn't really think he'd win the Republican nomination and unrealistically and true to his maverick nature, had thought he'd shake things up by having a Democrat, Joe Lieberman (who was Al Gore's running mate against Dubya) be VP candidate. After being told there was no chance of winning with such a concept, he asked his campaign manager, Steve Schmidt (wonderfully portrayed by Woody Harrelson) to come up with a "game changer". Harrelson, after seeing Obama achieve near rock star status during a speech in Berlin, figures the only way to equal the playing field is by choosing a woman running mate. Only problem is that there were woefully few choices on the Republican side of the aisle; until he caught a video of a Palin speech.
Unfortunately, the clock was running so the party didn't really have enough time to research their potential candidate, and after the nomination was announced, it was too late to turn back.
Julianne Moore is scary good as Palin; not only looking the part, but fully embodying the cheerleader brat who knows how to connive her way through things, but becomes a petulant child when things don't go her way. In typical fashion she ignores all the advice regarding the idea that perhaps her foreign affairs education is somewhat lacking, and then, after she tanks the Katy Courik interview, blames press secretary Sarah Poulson for not properly preparing her!
I could go on and on about Ms. Palin's escapades, but that's something you should enjoy for yourself. Suffice it to say she comes across as a self absorbed megalomaniac, who latches on to the right wing demogodery and actually believes she is qualified, and in fact perfect for the job, not only of VP, but eventual president - and this is a person who believes that the Queen of England actually holds political power in the UK and has no idea that a Prime Minister even exists - which means that the accomplishments of fellow female Maggie Thatcher were totally under her miniscule radar!
But enough about the media created creature that is Palin. I should be talking up the film, which has wonderful performances throughout. As I've mentioned Woody and Moore are terrific, and Ed Harris is fantastic as McCain; as is Michelle Wallace as Sarah Poulson, who utters perhaps the best line of the film; on election night, as it becomes apparent that McCain will be defeated, and all their hard work will come to naught, Poulson confides to Woody - "this is so sad, I couldn't even vote"; meaning that she thought so little of Palin that she couldn't even caste a vote for the party she had devoted so much time to.
As usual, HBO has delivered yet another sterling historical biopic piece - after watching this, it's no wonder that Ms Palin is pissed off about how she was portrayed - but like everything else about her, there's just too much that is common knowledge for you to be taken in by her rhetoric.
It might be election year but it seems a strange time to bring this story to the screen, either three years late or thirty years early. At this point we've seen countless portrayals of Palin, from comedians to pornstars. This is probably the first serious dramatic attempt but Moore falls well short. Visually she looks perfect but her performance is far too comic and seems to be based on Frances McDormand's irritating turn in "Fargo". Harris is impressive but the anchor of the film is Harrelson, brilliant as campaign strategist Steve Schmidt.
I knew this would essentially be an attack on Palin, which is fine by me, but I have a major problem with the manner of the attack. Rather than focusing on her insane worldview it cheaply mocks her for being uneducated. Attacking an individual for their lack of intelligence seems below the belt when the target of criticism should be the society that elevates and cultivates these people.
What we have here is a classic case of liberal hypocrisy. Palin is turned into an object of derision for being nothing more than a dumb hick. Ironically the director is Jay Roach whose previous credits include "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" and "Meet The Fockers". He's contributed a lot more to the dumbing down of America than Palin ever will.
Palin might be laughed at for appealing to Joe the plumber but Joe is the very person so-called liberal Hollywood panders to. Whether it's votes or bums on seats, the lowest common denominator will always be the most indulged.
As a political drama, it makes for engaging viewing.
When portraying people, getting the mannerisms right is a big part of it. And many of the actors in this did a great job not only nailing the big obvious ones but also including a lot of subtle nuances that really helped sell the part.