Thursday, March 15, 2012

Film Review - GAME CHANGE (2012)

We are not a political blog. We have political beliefs, of course, and they are probably evident. But we have no intention of being political. Therefore, reviewing Game Change might be difficult.

Game Change is the HBO original movie about the 2008 presidential campaign. It's based on the book of the same name but only covers the story of Sarah Palin's (Julianne Moore) rise to national prominence. With an excellent script by Danny Strong (you might remember him as Jonathan from Buffy the Vampire Slayer... Yeah, I know, right?) and directed by Jay Roach (the dude who directed the Austin Powers movies), all I can really say is that this movie was fascinating.  (more after the break)

Anyone that followed the Sarah Palin train wreck (and I hope that doesn't sound political, because, motherfucker, that was a train wreck) knows the general story of the Alaskan governor picked out of obscurity to energize the base... whose inexperience and lack of intelligence partially cost the campaign. But this story showed how much worse it actually was. That's basically the plot... and I watched with the same horror and intrigue as the McCain camp watched in the movie.

The first thing you have to wonder is whether or not it's accurate. It feels like left-wing character assassination given how terrible Palin comes off. But a little research shows that even people on the right (and people involved in the campaign) endorse the movie as mostly true. Steve Schmidt, the McCain campaign's chief strategist (played by a very game Woody Harrelson), has stated, "Ten weeks of the campaign are condensed into a two-hour movie. But it tells the truth of the campaign. That is the story of what happened." Chief Palin 2008 aide Nicolle Wallace (played by Sarah Paulson), said Game Change "captured the spirit and emotion of the campaign." Palin called it inaccurate... even though she declined to ever see it.

Now, the idea that everything portrayed in the movie is even somewhat accurate... That Sarah Palin is ACTUALLY like how she is portrayed... and that THAT person could have been the president... HOLY CRAP. THIS SHIT IS TERRIFYING. And that's as political as I'll get.

The performances were top notch. Moore's Palin is excellent in that it's more than an impression. Though the world will remember Tina Fey's over-the-top caricature, Moore provides a nuanced, rounded (although seemingly mentally unstable) performance as Palin. I don't think Moore ever mastered the voice, but she lived in the character. To me, that's more important. She had the look and mannerisms and captured the character without becoming parody. I like that. I like that the voice wasn't so over-the-top that it distracted from the rest of the performance. The performance is very believable and human... even after the second act as Palin seems to descend into an isolated madness. Seriously, her character seemed more likely to go on a murderous, scornful rampage than run for vice president. Again, HOLY CRAP. THIS SHIT IS TERRIFYING.

Ed Harris's John McCain is similar. He looks like him, but it doesn't seem like he concentrated as much on getting the tone and speaking patterns of McCain's voice. But, Harris, like McCain, commands respect and conveys a good man troubled by times and circumstance. That is the essence of McCain, as I see it. As a result, it's another great performance. McCain is framed well, and you got the sense that he actually would have been a terrific president. He just got lost in the scuffle of a popularity contest that drove him to take too many risks to get votes. One particular scene where they are discussing the pros and cons of picking Palin struck me. He had no other choice if he wanted to win. No gamble, no possible reward. Big gamble, big possible reward.

Woody Harrelson's Steve Schmidt stole the show for me. I forgot that Woody Harrellson can act. He has some great moments here, and he becomes the person that the audience most identifies with. If people are talking about Moore getting awards for her stuff, I think Harrelson should also be in consideration.

I hoped that we'd get to see the left side of this... or maybe the reality of the left was just a bunch of people laughing at Republican misfortunes. I do hope that the movie generates "spin-offs" as the book dealt with the democratic fights between Obama and Hilary Clinton. That seems as though it could be just as compelling.

Does anyone remember that movie, W? The one with Josh Brolin as President Bush and a bunch of really good actors as his subordinates? That movie was TOTAL left-wing propaganda. Worse though, it was a terrible, boring movie. Performances were SNL-esque (without the wit), and everyone involved seemed to be an over-the-top parody of their real-life counterparts. Game Change successfully humanizes the people involved (even the batshit crazy ones) and tells a compelling story no matter what is your political affiliation.

I gave it... 7.5 You Betchas.

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