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Captaindemotion April 15 2012 09:08 PM

HBO's Game Change

I had to think about whether or not to post a thread about this movie, as it may degenerate into a political slanging match. But as I don't bother with the Neutral Zone, I'll just hope that we're mature enough to discuss the movie as a movie and not sound off about the 2008 US Presidential Election and the personalities involved.

Anyway, this movie aired last night on UK tv and presumably has already done so in the US. It's based on the book Race of A Lifetime - How Obama Won The White House ( and is written and directed by the team of Danny Strong and Jay Roach, who also made Recount, the gripping movie about the post-Florida fight for the 2000 election. (And yes, it's almost bizarre that one of the three nerds from Season 6 of Buffy and the director of Austin Powers could turn out two such superb political movies).

Unlike the book, this movie concentrated solely on the Republican side of the race - Obama and Biden appeared only in archive footage (well, there was a stand-in for Biden used for a 'from-behind' close up during the recreation of the VP debate), whereas the Republican team were played by actors. The movie was essentially about how the Republican campaign was at first galvanised, then basically derailed by the selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate.

Palin, played here uncannily well by Julianne Moore, has denounced the movie, while McCain's campaign manager, Steve Schmidt (played by Woody Harrelson, looking remarkably like the real thing) has apparently said that watching it was 'like an out of body experience.' McCain is played by a similarly convincing, if slightly too youthful and robust Ed Harris.

Palin may well have been surprised had she watched this movie. I didn't feel that it was a hatchet job on her. She came across as a woman simply out of her depth, thrust into the spotlight by a team who didn't do the proper vetting and checks on her. The movie didn't appear to pin blame on any one person for this, rather it was a combination of enthusiasm for her, anxiety to get one over on Team Obama and tongues being bitten by the wrong people.

Palin was, for my money, portrayed as a genuinely loving and protective mother. The scenes of her and the beautiful Downs Syndrome baby who played her son Trig were touching. Additionally, scenes of Moore's Palin meeting with adult Downs Syndrome people while canvassing endeared her to the viewer. And when she criticised any adult who could make fun of a teenage girl (i.e. her daughter) on tv for the sake of some laughs, you could not but agree with and empathise with her.

As against that, the movie did remind us of the unpleasant side of Palin - Troopergate, the tantrums with her staff, her lack of any grasp of foreign policy and her 'dog-whistle' attacks on Obama.

McCain too came across better here than he did in the original book, where he often seemed to be losing his mind. The film concentrated on the better aspects of his character and personality; towards the end, we saw scenes of him defending Obama in front of rallies and in his concession speech. It didn't include his infamous 'lizard face' at Obama's back after Presidential debate or his rude 'this one' gibe at Obama durung another debate. He was portrayed as genuinely wanting to avoid a negative campaign - something that is perhaps open to debate.

The bottom line is that this was an entertaining movie, cleverly scripted and well-played, not just by the three leads but by the likes of Sarah Paulson, Peter McNicoll and Ron Livingston. Conservatives and Republicans were not portrayed as either living saints or the devil incarnate - rather, they were people doing a job for reasons they believe in and trying to put their country on a path they genuinely believed to be the right one. In particular, when Schmidt told Palin that the election of America's first African-American President was a momentous occasion and that she should do nothing that could be seen to take away from it, you came away with an enhanced respect for him.

Anyone else watch it?

sidious618 April 15 2012 09:11 PM

Re: HBO's Game Change
I did and I thought it was well done. I think it could've been helped by being a miniseries as opposed to a movie because quite a bit was left out.

the G-man April 16 2012 12:54 AM

Re: HBO's Game Change
I read the book right after it came out. It was a very good book.

The bulk of the book was actually about the democratic candidates: Obama, Clinton, Edwards, with probably only 1/4 of the book being about McCain and Palin. Furthermore, at the time of the book's publication, the big revelations from it were about the Edwards and, to a lesser extent, some intemperate remarks by Bill Clinton and Harry Reid. Conversely, by the time of publication, there was really no big surprise in learning that Palin was ill-prepared at the time she ran for VP. That was pretty clear from watching Katie Couric live as it happened.

In fact, the title of the book, "Game Change," was about Obama and the Clintons. Obama, widely seen as an underdog was able to "change the game," win the election and, ultimately, have Hillary Clinton work for him.

And, yet, from what I understand, the movie has none of that. Instead it was all about a minor--and well trod--part of the book.

Combine that with the fact the director is a democrat partisan and, right or wrong, it would tend to make conservatives suspicious.

Jax April 16 2012 01:27 AM

Re: HBO's Game Change
Great performances by all the cast especially by Moore and overall I enjoyed the film, it was very interesting no doubt. I do have a few issues that seem too bad to be true though if she really thought the Queen ran my country :lol: FECKING HELL. I have little doubt though that Sarah probably did begin to believe it was all about her, shes oozes living in a fucking giant bubble with no information about what goes on arund her.

Captaindemotion April 16 2012 02:55 PM

Re: HBO's Game Change

the G-man wrote: (Post 6188050)
[T]he director is a democrat partisan and, right or wrong, it would tend to make conservatives suspicious.

Fair enough. But I'd urge them to give the movie a try. I thought it did try to be fair and respectful towards McCain, Schmidt and Palin herself; indeed, I'd say none of the Republican team suffered a hatchet job in it.

Jax April 16 2012 04:39 PM

Re: HBO's Game Change
I thought McCain came off very good in the movie and I also have to say if its true that Palin's teleprompter broke during her convention speech then it was a fantastic recovery.

davejames April 16 2012 09:54 PM

Re: HBO's Game Change
Yeah I thought it was quite good as well. Whether it's accurate or not, the portrait of Palin drawn by Moore and the writers certainly felt real and believable. The mix of small town charm, general naivety, religious fervor, and a swelling ego all felt very true to what we saw in interviews and on the campaign trail.

FPAlpha April 16 2012 11:41 PM

Re: HBO's Game Change
Despite the real hatred some have displayed over this movie and the characterization (go on.. check IMDBs message board for it :lol:) of Palin i think it was a well balanced movie and if true what Schmidt claims confirms everything i suspected about Palin.

She, like Bush jr., were just people who were out of their depths for the position they were intended to take. Palin always struck me as the typical soccer mom cliché.. sometimes not too bright but the heart of the family and the glue that keeps it all together.

She was overwhelmed by the demands of a national political campaign and when pressure increased she cracked and lost it.. it could have been prevented by a proper vetting procedure but this was also the failure of McCain's team by not doing their job properly because they basically wanted a nice looking figurehead to help push McCain but it turned out she was not fit for the job as soon as their opponents started zeroing in on her.

So for all intents and purposes i think it was a fair and balanced movie with a brilliant job by Moore.

J.T.B. April 17 2012 01:02 AM

Re: HBO's Game Change
I liked the movie, haven't read the book. With the events still relatively fresh in my mind, the material in the show seemed a little "stagey;" a more documentary style and naturalistic dialogue may have worked better for me.

I agree that Palin is treated more sympathetically than I would have guessed from the pre-airing denouncements, but she still comes off pretty bad. You'd think that someone the lest bit reflective or self-aware would realize that she was out of her depth and needed to cooperate with the campaign and help them help her. Instead she went into some weird kind of passive-aggressive resistance. Naivete and arrogance is a bad combination.

I had vaguely heard about Palin wanting to deliver her own concession speech. If it really went down like it was shown in the movie, the obliviousness is stunning.

I also thought McCain was presented in a very favorable light, perhaps due to Steve Schmidt and Nichole Wallace's involvement as sources. I'd like to think that's how he really was, with some of his old "maverick," McCain-Feingold persona showing through the strong partisan facade he had to adopt in the campaign.


Gaith January 13 2013 03:22 PM

Re: HBO's Game Change
Netflix finally, finally brings the longed-for disc!


Captaindemotion wrote: (Post 6187135)
McCain too came across better here than he did in the original book, where he often seemed to be losing his mind. The film concentrated on the better aspects of his character and personality; towards the end, we saw scenes of him defending Obama in front of rallies and in his concession speech. It didn't include his infamous 'lizard face' at Obama's back after Presidential debate or his rude 'this one' gibe at Obama durung another debate. He was portrayed as genuinely wanting to avoid a negative campaign - something that is perhaps open to debate.

McCain definitely got a kid-glove treatment. Of all the main characters, I think he's the only one never to lose his temper, which is ironic. I think everything showed of him in the movie was more or less accurate, though they didn't show any just-as-real moments of him looking totally out of touch, crabby, or peevish at Barack running for prez so soon. (He respected the guy, but definitely didn't think he'd earned the cred to run.)

Other than that, though, it's a fantastic and wonderfully entertaining movie that neatly demonstrates why we don't get great horror movies like The Exorcist or Rosemary's Baby anymore. Who needs demonically possessed children, let alone torture porn, when you can just show what the GOP actually does? :p

As cool as it'd be to see another Game Change movie focusing on the Dems, it's easy to see why they aren't doing one - Barack is extremely difficult to cast, HBO's Hollywood types probably aren't that interested in showing just how far up their own butts the Clintons went, and, the Edwards meltdown aside, the story just isn't as twisty. But the upcoming 2012 Game Change book has already been optioned, so we'll see how it goes...

DarKush January 13 2013 03:50 PM

Re: HBO's Game Change
I thought this film was pretty good. All of the main cast did great jobs, but Julianne Moore definitely stood out. It was like she became Palin.

I also think that the film didn't slam Palin necessarily, though it didn't lionize her either. I agree that it portrayed a woman out of her depth, essentially a caring person but also one with an ego and insecurities. What was a bit chilling about the film was watching her descent into egomania.

I was also chilled by John McCain's unwillingness to keep Palin in check. His own desire to win at all cost could've put a person clearly unready to succeed him as President.

Gaith January 13 2013 04:38 PM

Re: HBO's Game Change
It is strange that a retired Navy captain was so reluctant to assert his authority. At first he just didn't want her screwing up so badly, but by the home stretch, as the movie shows, he was genuinely afraid of ticking her off.

Temis the Vorta January 13 2013 08:45 PM

Re: HBO's Game Change

Barack is extremely difficult to cast
Harry Lennix if it's TV and Denzel if it's a movie and who cares whether he actually looks like the guy?

After googling to find out who Obama wants to play him in the movie of his life on a hunch, I came up with this:


President Obama has said that if anyone were to do a movie about his life, it should be Will Smith because of the size of his ears.

the G-man January 13 2013 11:12 PM

Re: HBO's Game Change
Obama's ego, he'll probably want to play long as there's a teleprompter on set.

Greg Cox January 13 2013 11:17 PM

Re: HBO's Game Change
I caught most of this on HBO while staying in a hotel one night, and have been waiting impatiently for it to come out on DVD so I can finally watch the whole thing.

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