While U.S. elections don't directly affect Torontonians, it is a matter of interest for us and the rest of the world. Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin appeared on the electoral circuit like a flash of light. She was a political phenomenon; then a comedic one. Even if only half of what is portrayed in “Game Change” is true, it's terrifying to believe she had a shot at a high-ranking government position, second in line to the president of one of the world's most powerful countries.
Senator John McCain (Ed Harris) had low approval ratings among women heading into the 2008 U.S. election. To boost these numbers, it was suggested he choose a female running mate. Palin (Julianne Moore) was a Conservative with a spitfire, for-the-people public persona. From the outside, she seemed like the perfect selection requiring only some minor polishing. However after announcing the partnership, the cracks – and canyons – in her quality as a candidate for vice-president became unmistakable. What began as controversial details missed by the background checker and omitted by Palin became a general and insurmountable lack of knowledge concealed only by good acting skills.
Though Tina Fey's impersonation of the governor throughout the race for sketch comedy show “Saturday Night Live” is now ingrained in our pop culture memories, Moore's portrayal is uncanny. She absorbed Palin's essence and exudes it in every scene. The moments of public confidence are in deep contrast to her private meltdowns and childish tantrums. Questions of her mental stability are raised often as she increasingly shuts down during meetings, and doubts the sincerity and intentions of her team.
When given the opportunity, Harrelson displays great dramatic chops. As one of McCain's top advisors, his character bears the brunt of the blame and stress of dealing with Palin. It's his job to react to the numbers and adjust the campaign plan accordingly. It's also his job to sell Palin as a viable running mate, though his methods for doing so inspire little confidence in the system.
The cast of familiar faces also includes Harris, Ron Livingston and Sarah Paulson. This established group of actors create such a convincing illusion that they make it feel as if the viewer was really in the room when these discussions occurred. Because the film relates real events and real people, it's easy to get lost in the narrative.
It's not surprising after watching the picture that the HBO project garnered so much attention – for more than just its subject matter. Having earned five Emmy awards and three Golden Globes, this film deserves an expansive audience. Catch the award-winning film now on DVD and Blu-ray.
Director: Jay Roach
Special features include: “Creating a Candidate,” in which political experts analyze the unique combination of charisma, endurance and attraction to power needed by those who run for president; and “Game Change: The Phenomenon,” a discussion about the controversy, campaign drama and page-to-screen process by the creators of the film, authors of the book and political experts. (HBO Films)