Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Game Change or: Point and Laugh at Sarah Palin!

     There's no question that Game Change, the new HBO film based on the book of the same name about the 2008 Presidential campaign, is pretty gosh darn flippin' unsympathetic to Sarah Palin. Even before seeing the film or reading the book, who couldn't be? This woman knew what she was getting into before the long and personal attacks on her started, but she accepted the offer and made a fool of herself on a myriad of cringe-inducing occasions (most notably the Katie Couric interview, which is covered in the film). However, if half of the conversations, speeches and actions that Palin performed in Game Change are legitimate truths--and I'm assuming that at least most of them are, since the book is extremely thorough with hundreds of interviews and eyewitnesses on both sides of the political spectrum--then she isn't just unsympathetic, she's straight up unlikable: bitchy, commanding and demanding.
     Game Change the movie is quite a bit different than Game Change the book: the written work focused on a vast cast of political characters involved in the 2008 election period, including Obama, John Edwards, Joe Biden and Rudy Giuliani. The movie basically focuses on Sarah Palin and the head of McCain's advisors, Steve Schmidt, and to a lesser extent McCain himself. It might as well have been called, Game Change: Sarah's Story. And for a movie that's only two hours long, that's alright. (Also, Palin is clearly the most captivating of the select group of political warriors, either due to her conviction or stupidity [I'm voting the latter].)
     McCain's campaign--near the beginning of its run--needed a spark. Obama was a young, exciting world figure already at that time, and McCain was old and boring. So, after not much thought or investigation, the team decided to pick Sarah Palin. This move, like much of the film, is told through the eyes of Steve Schmidt, portrayed by Woody Harrelson. Schmidt was pretty instrumental in the selection of the Alaska governor, and it's great entertainment to watch Harrelson's slow realization of how deep he's dug McCain's campaign into a hole. The selection seemed great at first: Sarah was confident and very charismatic. But the selection process was very quick and not very thorough due to the time constraints. Schmidt didn't even ask her any foreign policy questions, to test her knowledge. Pretty soon everyone witnessed how deep the depths of her stupidity really went: she bossed the staff around like a diva, she backed out on agreements she made from the very beginning, and her knowledge of important information for a potential world leader to know--like geography, the Iraq war, and United States history--was atrocious. This woman was a heartbeat or bout of cancer (McCain already had cancer twice) away from being the Commander in Chief of the United States of America.
     The performances are what really elevate Game Change above typical cable movie fare. Harrelson's great and entertaining--that's been covered. Ed Harris portrays McCain as a very likable character, a man whose honor exceeds many, and a man whose vulgarity and excitement is charming. For a war hero who is at the top of his ticket, he plays second fiddle in Game Change just as he did on his actual campaign. He doesn't even leave Palin hard feelings at the end, when it's clear that she may have cost him his presidency. The film's always great when Julianne Moore is on screen, portraying Sarah Palin. This is an embodiment of a character, much different than Tina Fey's impersonation on Saturday Night Live. Though she does look uncannily like Palin, Moore proves what a great actress she is with every action, annunciation, strut and hand gesture. This is woman who believes that everything good has happened to her because it's part of God's plan. She's always confident and firm in her beliefs. Yet it's the more intimate moments of Moore's portrayal that showoff her excellent performance, when Sarah gets overwhelmed with the media's bullying or when she receives a phone call from her son in Iraq.
     If the only difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull is lipstick, then the only difference between Sarah Palin and a great actress is a Presidential campaign. She fools everyone constantly, pretending to know answers to questions when she doesn't. She captivates the eyes of thousands upon thousands of Americans. She even memorizes her lines for a debate instead of actually knowing the answers. Watching these behind-the-scenes moments add just enough, so it seems like something more than just re-watching the 2008 presidential race. We see snippets of many of the same interviews and rallies that we have seen before, but in Game Change, they still seem fresh. One thing is sure: Sarah Palin would have been a dangerous President.  

P.S. Here's hoping Romney makes the same mistake, if not for the sake of the country, then for the sake of comedy.

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