By: Julio De Francisco (A Toast) –
I thought it would be relevant to cover Game Change at MovieBoozer as it was HBO’s most watched original movie in the last 8 years, garnering 2.1 million viewers (Source: Entertainment Weekly) at its initial showing. The film tells the true story of how then Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska (Julian Moore) was chosen to be Senator John McCain’s (Ed Harris) running mate for the 2008 US Presidential Elections. Woody Harrelson plays Steve Schmidt, a Republican strategist for the McCain campaign. Since the film’s release, Steve Schmidt among others have confirmed how true the events portrayed in the film were to real life. He claimed the film made him feel like he was suffering from PTSD, reliving the past. Based on the reports of accuracy I decided to watch the film and made an effort not to let my personal politics influence how I felt about the movie.
I feel it necessary to commend and toast to the performances in the cast of Game Change. Most notably Julianne Moore, who managed to do Sarah Palin without seeming like a parody a la Tina Fey. There were moments in the film where I sympathized with Sarah Palin, a feeling I never had before, in such a way that made me really love Moore’s performance. There’s a scene where Sarah begins to show signs of having a nervous breakdown. The descent into this state happens gradually and in such an organic way that Sarah Palin suddenly felt human. If it were possible, Julianne Moore should be considered an Oscar contender for this film.
I see Sarah Palin in this movie as sexy as her supporters do in real life.
Woody Harrelson among others had a strong performance. He plays Steve Schmidt who was the campaign manager for McCain. Harrelson, a man who is as liberal as I am, reminded me what a great actor he truly is. In one scene Steve asks Sarah how she would respond about how the McCain’s administration would keep strong ties with England. She mistakes the Queen as the head of state and not the Prime Minister. Steve’s (Harrelson) reaction was neither cynical nor mocking, it was just concerned. Though he felt that it was something that could be resolved with history lessons, foreign policy cannot be learned in a week. Palin was inundated with information that was more that she could handle. Realizing this, Steve had her memorize lines about what to say when asked a certain question and helped her in avoiding questioning strategies. Harrelson’s performance in my eye was flawless. There are scenes where he’s cheering for Sarah that had me thinking, “Wow, he did it!”
“Please God, make me a bird, so I can fly far… far far away from here.”
Lastly, the writing for the film was superb. The film is based on the book Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime written by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, who are political journalists. The book was based on more than 300 interviews from the 2008 presidential campaign (Source). Danny Strong adapted the 3rd part of the book which focused mainly on Sarah Palin’s VP Candidacy. The dialogue was very human and natural. McCain cursed in private like I’d expect any man would, and Sarah Palin was a sweater wearing governor and mother before being thrust into the national political arena. At times the tension hinging on how Sarah Palin would be on television clung to me as well as the relief when she’d pull things off.
I believe this is one of HBO’s best films and most certainly the best drama and historical film to come out so far this year. It doesn’t matter if you like or hate Sarah Palin, you will love this movie. Enjoy that beer.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever John McCain curses.
Take a Drink: whenever Sarah Palin can’t give a clear or sensible answer.
Take a Drink: whenever Sarah Palin is looking at her cell phone.
Take a Drink: whenever Sarah Palin asks for her poll numbers in Alaska.
Take a Drink: whenever a crowd cheers.
Take a Drink: whenever someone says something hateful about Obama.
Drink a Shot: whenever someone says something positive about Obama.