Changing the Game

So, last weekend, HBO aired the premier of Game Change.  A very loose adaption of the book Game Change by Mark Halperin and JohnHeilmann, but highly entertaining.  The main focus of the book was the Democratic primary (specifically the race between Clinton and Obama).*  The film was the chronicles of John McCain and Sarah Palin.

Big Hollywood would like you to see this as a hit piece full of evil lies and attacks.  Their definition of a lie is, apparently, anything that does not portray Sarah Palin as the Queen of All That Is Wonderful and Great is a hit piece.

Truthfully, I think the film (written by Danny Strong-Jonathan from Buffy the Vampire Slayer-and Directed by Jay Roach-director of the Austin Powers films and the first two Meet the _____ films) is really overly generous to it’s subjects.  More than a few of the folks involved in the real story back up the HBO version (while many of the critics are folks not directly involved).  The film ignores McCain’s long talked about temper, portraying him as a noble politico who does not want to play dirty to win.  And this is the John McCain I wanted to believe in.  He seemed to disappear after his November loss, replaced with a bitter and angry clone.

The film portrays Palin as human and quite sympathetic, someone thrown into a cycle they were not necessarily prepared for.  I felt sympathy for Sarah Palin watching the story.  She’s human with human foibles and triumphs.  She clearly loves her family and has handy public speaking skills.  She works hard to succeed.  These are good qualities.  Does the film also show her to sometimes be petty?  Yeah.  Lots of people-even really nice ones, can fall into that trap.  She is portrayed as headstrong to a fault (her aggressive desire to give a concession speech is a good example).

The other characters fare the same treatment.  Steve Schmidt (portrayed in the film terrifically by Woody Harrelson) is portrayed as a man devoted to trying to win, but a bit of a gambling risk taker who is very on board the Palin Train in the beginning, but is very exasperated by the end of it all.  He is shown as a nice guy, but also aggressive to a fault and prone to angry outbursts.  Schmidt has not claimed Harrelson’s performance as being inaccurate.  He would have plenty of reason to, as the film shows him in some negative light.  But he has defended the film’s portrayal.

Ed Harris and Julianne Moore do a great job in their respective roles, though it can be hard to not see Moore trying to steer clear of Tina Fey country and become a parody.  Really, the cast is strong all the way around.

There may be questions about accuracy (with most dramatized “true stories” there are) but a hit piece this ain’t.  It does not portray McCain or Palin as villains.  Both are, in fact portrayed as decent people.


*A Game Change 2: Game Harder, focused on the Clinton/Obama rivalry would be interesting to see.  Who would they cast?

4 thoughts on “Changing the Game Leave a comment

  1. It actually does show Palin in a very favorable light. Yet she and others as you pointed out, without even having seen it, are judging it.

    It’s why we can’t have nice things anymore.

    We can’t even talk intelligently about it.

    Good review.

  2. Should they be villains? Must we have villains? McCain and Palin were flawed. Palin being on the ticket was a good game plan – but the short and inefficient vetting didn’t help the McCain camp, and the lack of time didn’t help Palin.

    I agree when you said that the film’s Palin was drawn to encourage sympathetic feelings and they chose to not beat her up too badly for her shortcomings.

    As for McCain – I agree when you said that he was portrayed as a decent guy. But then you point out that post-election he became a bitter and angry. And that wasn’t in the film. It wasn’t because that would have been a different film. This film was about the Game Change.

    They pointedly went after the election with Palin because they needed the women’s votes. They thought they had the males despite Obama’s celebrity and star status. So that’s where the Game Change title was intended. They wanted to veer away from the Older white men standardized ticket.

    So In my opinion – leaving the McCain histrionics (temper) out, as well as the post election changes that he went through was correct. Still, like you, I’d like to see it.

    Harrelson’s Schmidt was played just right. He started all go-go for Palin, but as time passed, and he saw her deficiencies up close, he changed. He went through the keep trying phase, the frustrated phased, the what-have-we-wrought phase. and finally – when Palin insisted that she would would speak and give her own concession speech that she said was to praise McCain – only then did he really lose it.

    But then, she did deserve it at the time.

    Thanks for your excellent review. If you get a chance please check out mine.

  3. I watched it, and thought that it was a pretty decent movie. McCain was portrayed well, ( I love Ed Harris) and Ms. Moore did a really excellent portrayal of Sarah Palin. Her voice work, was dead on. Both characters actually were fairly well treated I thought, so it was a little ridiculous of the real Palin to have a hissy fit.

    I understand that the makers of the movie did contact her, for her input prior to filming, and were turned down flat. So there.

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