HBO's adaptation of Mark Halperin's Game Change comes across as less of a character study of Sarah Palin (Julianne Moore) and more of a look at a group of men, including Presidential candidate John McCain (Ed Harris) and campaign strategist Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson), who slowly realize that they made one beluga whale of a bad decision. Or I guess we can just take Palin's apt summary of the film: "Hollywood lies are Hollywood lies." Oh, boy oh boy.
Why Palin was so quick to dismiss Game Change, I'm not so sure. After all, the docudrama is practically the only form of media that has portrayed the Alaskan governor as a human being and not a babbling nincompoop -- her own Sarah Palin's Alaska included.
We Need a Game Changer
Steve Schmidt is the protagonist here, and the film suggests that by choosing such a colorful character as Palin to run against Barack Obama, the strategist was less concerned with the future of America and more interested in winning a popularity contest. Along with Senior Advisor Nicolle Wallace (Sarah Paulson), Schmidt attempts to mold Palin into a national celebrity to combat Obama's inherent appeal.
Is This Real Life...?
This is a great career move for Julianne Moore. Make no mistake, she's always been a powerhouse actress, but she's constantly throwing herself into roles that require screaming fits and gallons of tears. Her subtle and idiosyncratic portrayal of the Alaskan super-mom is so convincing that I second-guessed whether I was seeing actual footage of Palin on more than one occasion. And maybe best of all, there is not an ounce of caricature to be found. Sure, our favorite phrases such as "geez," "what the flip" and "daggone it" pepper the script, but it's Moore's sympathetic depiction of Palin as a passionate mother caught in the media maelstrom that truly stands out.
Ed Harris's moseying take on John McCain is also eerily uncanny several times throughout the film, despite spending most of the two-hour running time lounging on couches in his boxers and dropping f-bombs left and right. With McCain's infamous knack for spouting four-letter words, who didn't predict HBO taking that little gem and running with it?
No No, Not Again
Did anyone else fight the urge to look away during the reenactments of Palin's interviews with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric? Watching this disaster a few years ago was brutal enough, but HBO had to go and make us re-live the painfully uncomfortable events, this time interspersed with quick cuts of Woody Harrelson, Ed Harris and Sarah Paulson looking absolutely mortified. Okay fine, I'll admit it: I still chuckled a bit.
Maybe the reason that Palin objects to Game Change is that while the film doesn't portray her as a mindless puppet, it suggests that she was only chosen to run as Vice President based on her personality, rather than her political aspirations. That, or she didn't even watch the movie and texted her quick response between soccer games.
"Do you want a statesman to be your next president, or do you want a celebrity?"
--Steve Schmidt presenting his bold vision to the McCain campaign.
"You don't think she might be too outside the box?"
McCain, concerned about his running mate.
"News isn't meant to be remembered anymore, it's just entertainment."
--Schmidt reassuring Palin that the negative headlines are meaningless.
"Do you know what Ronald Reagan said caused pollution? Trees."
--Schmidt trying to liven Palin's mood.
"Remember: You're a hockey mom who just wanted to make a difference."
--McCain to Palin before his concession speech.