Sunday, March 24, 2013

Review: HBO's 'Game Change'

(Photo Source: HBO)
I promised a review of the Game Change film, so here it is! Based on a nonfiction book of the same name by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, Game Change focuses exclusively on the Republican side of the 2008 presidential election, or more specifically, the period of time from right before John McCain chose his running mate all the way through to election night.

And they smartly chose to go this route, because even though most of the attention throughout 2007 and 2008 was on Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, it's the selection of Sarah Palin as the GOP running mate that made people from all sides of the political spectrum--Democrats, Independents and Republicans--scratch their heads in both fascination and confusion. And the HBO film has perfectly adapted it for the small screen.

(I know there are a few people out there who have tried to brush this film off as being full of distortions and lies, but the two main advisers to the McCain campaign -- Nicolle Wallace and Steve Schmidt, played by Sarah Paulson and Woody Harrelson, respectively -- have publicly gone on the record to say that it accurately portrays what really went on behind-the-scenes.)

No one was really all that excited for John McCain. He didn't create that buzz factor that surrounded Obama and Clinton, so after they changed up their running mate game plan and selected Sarah Palin, things got exciting once more. And there really aren't words perfect enough to sum up Julianne Moore's performance as the former governor of Alaska. We see her in both highs and lows: the whirlwind of being selected and meeting supporters, to the crash and burn of not prepping and bungling simple news interviews, to name a couple incidents.

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I really enjoyed seeing them adapt the events that we did see on TV in 2008, such as speeches, interviews and debates. And then to peel away the curtain and look behind it all with the interactions that took place between Palin and Wallace, for example--things got really heated at one point.

Even though I read the book Game Change about a year ago, I don't remember if this particular bit was included in the book or if the filmmakers came across it from other sources: Throughout those final weeks of the election, from the convention to election night, Palin was really adamant about wanting polling done in her home state to make sure her reputation there was still in place. It seemed at every turn, she was asking the advisers if they had conducted the poll. And I'm thinking, you shouldn't be worrying about that. You need to hit the books and learn a thing or two if you want to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. I mean, seriously. (And if you look at real life since then, you see how choosing her as a running mate had an effect on the 2012 election, because the Republicans made sure that the next VP candidate was up to par and fully vetted.) But I digress...

When you're dealing with people who we all saw on pretty much a daily basis on our TV screens for weeks (and in the case of McCain and Palin, years now), you want to make sure through hair and makeup you can get the actors to look as close to their real-life characters as much as possible. And as much as we loved Tina Fey as Sarah Palin on SNL, it's Julianne Moore who truly embodies her. Heck, she even ended up with an Emmy and Golden Globe. (The film as a whole won both as well.) Ed Harris, as McCain, also took home a Golden Globe. I have to say, though, that Harris doesn't quite look like McCain, but there's he still pulled off the essence of the senator.

HBO continues to amaze, both with their TV shows and films. And Game Change certainly is up there as one of the best. If you haven't read the book but still want to get a sense of what the McCain campaign was like away from the cameras, then watch this film. It will surely not disappoint.

I Recommend: HBO's Game Change


  1. Jeff, great review. I LOVED this movie. I was enthralled by Julianne Moore and Ed Harris as well as Woody Harrelson.

  2. Thanks! I was very much enthralled as well.