BROOMFIELD, CO — If you want to watch an entertaining political movie with great acting, watch HBO’s Game Change. But if you want to watch a movie that is an honest and accurate portrayal of the 2008 election, look elsewhere.
The film, based on the book of the same name by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, is a searing indictment of Sarah Palin and the decision to place her on the Presidential ticket. The only problem is that it is so gratuitous and overdone in its attempt to smear Palin that it devolves into parody.
No one would deny that Palin was green on foreign policy when she was selected, seemingly out of nowhere, in August 2008. But does anyone really believe that Palin had to be taught that Germany was the “primary antagonist in World War I and World War II,” as the movie shows her foreign policy advisors instructing her? To top off the gratuitous slander, the fictional Palin is seen frenetically writing down this fact, as if she would forget such simple elementary school history otherwise.
The decision to focus on Palin left many people disappointed, as the book Game Change is chock full of juicy nuggets and interesting anecdotes on the Democratic primary. Sarah Palin doesn’t even get mentioned until page 351. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton don’t so much as appear in a cameo in the movie, other than when the McCain campaign is watching them on TV.
It’s not entirely surprising that the movie takes a particularly jaundiced view of the GOP, considering it’s the product of the same directors who did HBO’s “Recount,” a movie based on the Florida recount of 2000 that deems Democrats the party that cares about voters and Republicans a party of win-at-any-cost hooligans.
Due to the less-than-honest portrayals of real people in the movie, it would probably be appropriate for the movie to include the caveat at the outset that it is inspired by real events, not an actual depiction of history.
In fact, some of the more over-the-top moments, such as the Palin history lesson, don’t even show up in the book Game Change. The real Randy Scheunemann, who is one of the foreign policy advisors in the Germany history lesson scene, deems the movie full of “lies and mis-characterizations.”
The movie is not an entirely unfair portrayal of Palin, but viewers would be excused if they thought her character was written by the staff at Moveon.org. To be sure, there are some moving parts recounting Palin’s outreach to families with special needs children during the campaign, as well as a sympathetic look at the hardship placed on the Palin family.
But the overall view of Palin the movie produces is that she doesn’t know her ass from her elbow and is potentially mentally unstable. No fair minded observer would say that’s even close to an accurate representation of Palin during the campaign.
It’s too bad the movie goes so overboard in trying to make Palin look bad, because outside of that aspect the movie is well done and entertaining.
Julianne Moore does an outstanding job at mimicking Palin’s accent (“Here’s the dill”) and her body language. Woody Harrelson, as McCain Campaign Manager Steve Schmidt, puts in a masterful performance as a political operative who believes in McCain’s leadership and is doing everything in his power to make him President.
John McCain is played by Ed Harris, who apparently thinks that McCain drops the F-bomb into every other sentence. Despite the crassness with which Harris depicts McCain’s speech, he nails McCain’s mannerisms, including the Texas cowboy wide shouldered gait McCain has due to his arms being repeatedly broken while in captivity in Vietnam.
In the end the movie seems to live up to the best and worst of Hollywood. While the best in the world at nailing accents, speech patterns and dramatic effect, Hollywood actors, directors and screen writers continually fall prey to their overwhelmingly liberal bias when touching on political subjects.
They just can’t seem to put out political movies that are both well done and fairly represent both sides.
The sad part is the directors don’t even get that.
Director Danny Strong told MSNBC, “We stand by the film as being completely accurate and truthful and representing what happened. It’s true. The movie’s true.”
It’s not true, but it is fun to watch.