HBO's Game Change
It was late August 2008, and the presidential campaigns were well underway—Obama was ahead in the polls and the situation was turning frightful for the Republican candidate. The “Grand Old Party” needed something to rejuvenate and energize their campaign if they had any hope of winning the election. The McCain Campaign found their stratagem in the then-Alaskan Governor and mother of five, Sarah Palin.
HBO's “Game Change,” directed by Jay Roach, details the struggles of the McCain campaign before bringing on Palin. The straight-to-TV release delves into the motivations and reasoning for inviting the relatively unknown governor onto the ballot.
Roach, better known for directing comedies such as “Meet the Parents,” and “Dinner for Schmucks,” is not completely unknown in the world of political dramas. In 2008 he directed “Recount,” a movie about the 2000 presidential election and the Florida voting machine scandals.
In an interview with CNN, Roach said, “It’s interesting that politicians are forced to study perpetually their own media depictions, as well as focus on the issues and what they actually care about.”
Game Change is successful in exploring this aspect of politics. Viewers gain an insight into the struggles and frustrations the McCain campaign faced behind the scenes, especially during the vetting process.
The film does a great job of illustrating just how quickly Palin was thrust into the limelight, and how ill prepared she was at the time for the constant bombardment of interviews and media appearances.
Game Change also raises the question: Was Palin even mentally equipped for the office of vice president?
Palin has publicly denounced the film as “untrue,” and has called it “a false narrative.” On the contrary, Nicole Wallace, one of Palin's top advisors at the time, disclosed to ABC news that “'Game Change' was true enough to make me squirm.”
“Game Change” features superb acting and an all-star cast. Julianne Moore (Sarah Palin), Ed Harris (McCain), and Woody Harrelson lead the ensemble. The movie does a great job of depicting these larger-than-life figures during its short two-hour runtime.
Julianne Moore’s portrayal of Palin is overall a sympathetic one. The actress' physical transformation is so seamless that at times you forget that you’re watching a film.
At times Moore portrays Palin as a naïve mother from Alaska; not ready to be vice-president. Other moments, she captures the inner strength and poise of Palin brilliantly.
According to Kate Stanhope of TVGuide.com, Moore reportedly watched hours of TLC’s “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” as preparation for the role.
Woody Harrelson plays Steve Schmidt, the campaign strategist for Senator McCain. Harrelson delivers a marvelous job of carrying the audience along an emotional journey in the proposal of Palin as McCain’s running mate.
Steve Schmidt also reported to ABC that the depiction of himself and the campaign were accurate; “At times I felt I was having an out of body experience.”
Harrelson captures Steve Schmidt's character in the scene where he tries to convince McCain (Ed Harris) that Palin is the right choice; “I’d rather lose by ten points and know I did everything then lose by one and ask what could we have done.”
I In an article with the NY Daily News Schmidt recalled, “one of my biggest regrets from my time as campaign manager was recommending someone as a vice-presidential candidate who wasn’t ready.”
“Game Change” by Jay Roach explores what is demanded of our elected officials and the dangers of electing a popular face or celebrity.
Is “Game Change” typical liberal media, or right-wing propaganda? The answer is neither. Roach his esteemed cast offer a new perspective on the frantic, historic and widely entertaining 2008 election.