July 13, 2020

Game Change Changes the Game

posted on: Thursday March 22, 2012

Maris Urgo ’14/A&E Staff

Political films are especially engaging because they capture historical events through a lens that may be biased. I believe it is up to the viewer to interpret whether a film is portraying an event truthfully, almost like a mystery, which is why I like political movies. This was just the case with HBO’s new “docudrama,” Game Change. It tells the tale of the 2008 presidential election told through the eyes of advisors who developed the losing strategy of Senator John McCain of Arizona and Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska. Game Change is based on a best-selling campaign book of the same title by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin.

The movie begins with the Republican Party at a loss for a politician to be its vice presidential candidate. Woody Harrelson has a star part as Steve Schmidt, the senior advisor who was in charge of finding a suitable candidate. After watching President (then, candidate) Obama on T.V., he decides he needs a “game changer” if the Republicans are going to win. He stumbles upon Sarah Palin through YouTube, deciding right then and there that “she is a star.” The movie does not show it, but I sincerely hope the vice presidential candidate search involved a little more than YouTube.

From then on, Palin (Julianne Moore) is brought onto the scene. Moore’s depiction of Palin is well acted, and she was one of the only actors in the film to portray both sides of her character. Although the movie definitely shows the dark side of Sarah Palin, Moore does depict a woman who is ambitious, diligent, and a caring mother. The dark side, though, if accurate, is frightening. Palin is an egocentric woman who turns almost catatonic, to the point where Sarah Paulson (Nicole Wallace), senior Palin advisor, questions whether she is mentally ill.

This was the major part in the movie that I had trouble believing. It seemed troubling that the Republican vice presidential candidate could be questionably mentally ill, and the Republican Party staff neither replace her nor control her behavior. There is no professionalism among senior staff members. For example, in one scene, Palin refuses to go over notes for an interview with Katie Couric because she allegedly does not know the difference between Iraq and Afghanistan. She is shown to ignore Paulson when Paulson tries to prep her, but what made me question it the most was that Paulson accepts the behavior and was submissive to Palin. It seemed questionable, but I suppose that is part of the point the filmmakers are trying to make, accurate or not. Overall, I enjoyed the movie and it’s worth watching. I can rarely sit through a movie without being distracted or zoning out, but I paid attention for the full two hours. I understand that the film was pushing a liberal agenda, but part of its depiction was completely unnecessary. John McCain (Ed Harris) is shown cursing every other sentence and in one scene, in his boxers. I understand wanting to portray McCain in a negative light, but at least make it for substantial reasons. I would not say the film is fair to both sides, but that is not its intent. The intent of the movie, like the book, seems to be to reveal the horrifying secrets of the 2008 election from the Republican side, and it does so in an entertaining manner. I’m still unsure if any of what was depicted was accurate, which makes me curious to further research the topic.

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