When Politics Seemed Quaint: Game Change Review

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“…you have got to stop saying things to the press that are blatantly untrue; that is NOT the kind of campaign that we are running here!”

Game Change and its portrayal of John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign comes off as a warning that we didn’t heed. The film explores the “maverick” and ill-advised choice of having unvetted first time govern Sarah Palin as the VP pick. The film tracks the landmark challenges strategist like Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson) faced first with trying to train Palin into VP material but also the consequences of this authority and prominence going to her head. While she’s unmanageable by the team, her wild yet down-home rhetoric connects with the public. As exaggerated as Palin’s unintelligence and falsities seem, we’ve already lived through a candidate saying much worse so her inaccuracies seem cute by comparison.

There’s a strangeness to liberals depicting Republicans which this HBO film toes. As much as I hate the term “liberal media” the choice of a twangy country music soundtrack and the stupidity in which they show Palin (she’s ignorant to WWII?) at times can feel harsh. Julianne Moore who is seemingly playing Palin larger than life actually slips into normalcy because the woman is a caricature. The look, the accent, the mannerisms, I could easily be convinced she really was her. At the same time, this film gives me a new found respect for John McCain because at least he doesn’t have some of the more nut job conservative views.

Why this film feels so convincing besides fantastic performances from a stack casting (motherfuckin’ Sarah Paulson!) director Jay Roach weaves in so much archival footage of Obama, the debates, attack ads etc that give legitimacy to the narrative. Sometimes it’s overdone like the long clips of Saturday Night Live. I get that was an integral part of that presidential race but when playing full clips I start to prefer to just watch the entire sketch. Game Change wants to make itself a truthful snapshot of this risky campaign and unintentionally, its future effect on politics. The film ends on a scary note and once again I can’t believe this movie was made before the events of the 2016 race. Campaign Manager Rick Davis says

“I too wish that the American people would choose the future Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Jefferson, but unfortunately, that’s not the way it works anymore. Now it takes movie-star charisma to get elected President, and Obama and Palin, that’s what they are – they’re stars.”

Haunting. Can’t wait to see HBO’s take on the Trump campaign.

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