Tuesday, September 11, 2012

HBO's Game Change - TV Movie Review

Finally got a chance to see HBO's movie based on one-fifth of the best-selling book from Heilemann/Halperin about the 2008 election.  And it did play like one-fifth of the book, where I wished we could get the other four-fifths.  You know, since the book's main plot was how Obama beat Hillary in the Democratic primary.

But this focusses on three characters. The main character is Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson), one of McCain's closest advisors and likely one of the main sources of the book.  Just as it looks like Obama's sealed the Democratic nominee, McCain's thinking of who his running mate should be.  He wants his pal Joe Lieberman, but internal polling shows it would be disastrous, so they have to look for a high-risk high-reward candidate.

Enter Sarah Palin, played with juuust a little too much Alaskan twang by Julianne Moore sometimes, while other times she's lost in the role and I forgot I was watching Moore.  Sarah is this enigmatic figure, smart on some things and unbelievably stupid on other things. (She really didn't know that England's run by the Prime Minister, not the Queen?  She really thought Saddam was in on the 9/11 plot?)  But lest you think we're seeing a caricature, we see the scenes of her children crying due to the press treatment they're receiving, and we see her putting on a brave face while her son's deployed in Iraq.

John McCain's role isn't as big as I thought it might be.  Ed Harris does a fine job, and for the most part, McCain's portrayed as a good man bewildered by his friends in the press turning on him.  Schmidt is the moral center, and Palin by the end is Willie Stark as Greg Stillson in The Maleficent Story, and it's Schmidt's willingness to be candid in interviews afterward about just how unprepared she was that put the brakes on the printing of Sarah Palin 2012 bumper stickers. (So that's how he got his job at MSNBC.)

So if HBO was willing to go warts-and-all with the Palin parts of the book, why not do the rest and be a mini-series?  Politics, obviously.  If Palin had decided to run, what a deliciously opportune time for the movie to come out.  But we won't go into the Hillary/Barack/Bill/John & Elizabeth Edwards sections of the book.  Might make the Democrats look bad.  It's from Danny Strong and Jay Roach, the same team behind HBO's Recount, which retold the 2000 election through Gore-colored glasses.

But I do hope Woody Harrelson wins the Emmy for his work here.

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