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Old April 15 2012, 09:08 PM   #1
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Location: Ireland
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?
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