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Game Change: HBO's film captures the 2008 election

Game Change


Much has been made about HBO’s film adaptation of “Game Change” that it's easy to forget that the non-fiction book was written by McCain staffers. (author correction: "Game Change" was written by journalists Mark Halperin and John Heileman who based their book on interviews with 300 people directly involved in the campaign) Some on the right have painted the film as an anti-Palin screed and while it doesn’t always cast her in the most positive light, it's more than just a perceived political hit job.

John McCain (Ed Harris) and Sarah Palin (Julianne Moore) in HBO's "Game Change"

Julianne Moore deserves an Emmy for her role as Sarah Palin. There’s no doubt about it, SHE is the real deal. Moore has all the mannerisms and down home folksiness that is Sarah Palin down pat. This is not just mere mimicry, Moore embodies and inhabits Palin in her role. Sometimes one has to do a double take because it’s easy to forget you are watching a movie and not someone playing Palin. Others in the cast making strong impressions are Ed Harris making an equally amazing John McCain with notable turns by Woody Harrelson and Peter McNichol as members of his staff. Austin Pendelton has a hilarious credited wordless cameo as Joe Lieberman.

“Game Change” shows a campaign looking to desperate measures to counter Obama’s meteoric rise to the national stage. The choice of Sarah Palin as the Vice Presidential pick is not only shown as desperate but also coolly calculated. Instead of making a choice based on experience and capability, the film makes the argument that McCain’s campaign needed a woman and any woman would do. Palin had the folksy charm and the makings of a political up and comer so the campaign decides to vet her. Unfortunately, the campaign learns too late the vetting process might not have been as thorough as it should have been. Allegations pop up that the campaign cannot counter. Palin is not knowledgeable on world affairs and refuses to be prepped. She acts like a primadonna; firing staff members and renegging on promises she made when first chosen. As much as Palin’s camp are denouncing the film as an attack piece there are times in the film where Palin is treated very sympathetically. After all, she was thrown rather abruptly from state politics to the national stage. Rather than being a caricature, the film portrays someone who got over her head fast.

People will know some things going into the film but seeing it dramatized adds additional impact. The scenes blending the actors into historical backgrounds like debates or the RNC convention are seamless and adds an another element of realism. “Game Change” is equal parts docudrama, political satire, and comedy-drama. Director Jay Roach (of HBO film’s “Recount” and the “Meet The Parents” films) does a great job getting top notch performances from his actors as well as keeping an even tone throughout.

Bottom Line: “Game Change” is a must see. Julianne Moore’s Emmy-worthy performance with an equally strong top-notch cast make this something for Palin-lovers and haters to enjoy equally.

“Game Change” is currently playing on HBO. Check your local listings.

Did you see “Game Change”? Agree or disagree with my review? Drop me a line at, leave a comment below, or you can follow me on twitter @milwaukeefilmex. Are you on facebook? Join Milwaukee Movie Examiner facebook group here. Click 'subscribe' above and get Milwaukee Movie Examiner's articles and reviews sent directly to your email inbox.


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