Sunday, March 11, 2012

Game Change Shows the Sharp Change in Focus on Celebrity vs. Quality

Game Change (4 out of 5 Stars)
Directed by Jay Roach (Recount. Austin Powers, Meet the Parents)
Written by Danny Strong (Recount)
Starring: Julianne Moore, Ed Harris, Woody Harrelson, Peter MacNicol, and Sarah Paulson

2008 was an intense political year.  As President Bush was leaving office with some incredibly low numbers the two candidates running for President were trying to change the landscape.  The Democratic candidate Barack Obama had the charm, charisma, and plans that inspired hope in the American people.  Republican Presidential nominee John McCain needed to pick someone who could help him battle with Obama's celebrity.  The McCain team was lacking in female support, and through a google search found Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin came to the center stage of the national political forum.  Yes the book and the film show that Rick Davis googled female Republican office holders

This google search is one of the few shocking behind the scenes revelations in the film Game Change which is based on the book written by John Heillemann and Mark Halperin entitle "Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime."  In the book Heillemann and Halperin focus on the candidates and the behind the scene politics that shaped a "blockbuster" campaign.  2008 was about the celebrity and the hope that the Bursh era could be wiped away.  The book focuses on the negative on every front, from the worry that Hillary Clinton could not control her husband, to McCains rogue tactics that often looked as though he did not care, to John Edwards and his egotistical philandering ways.  No one was off limits in this book, not even the winner of the Presidency.  Obama was cited as controlled and off stage a candidate quick to anger. 

While the book centers on every Presidential candidate the film focuses solely on the McCain/Palin ticket.  Danny Strong who wrote the film Recount about the 2000 election does a great job writing a script that focuses on the not only the candidates themselves, but the behind the scenes mishaps that shaped the campaign strategy.  Strong works with former Recount director Jay Roach to construct a film that cuts together scenes where Palin is interviewed by Couric using the actual footage from the interview,  It is these tactics that give this film strong footing.  This team does a good accurately portraying the ticket team while saving most of its critique for the folks behind the scenes like Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson).

Schmidt has taken the lead on this campaign after McCain asked him to, and helps out with vetting the Vice Presidential nominee.  The only problem is Schmidt left most of the work to the other team members when he should have been the one who looked into her just as closely.  Woody Harrelson is one of the strongest performances in this film; he has the best non verbal facial expressions.  Harrelson's Schmidt knows there is problems with this campaign when he realizes that Sarah Palin does not understand the concept of difference between the Queen of England and the Prime Minister or that there is even a Prime Minister.  As Harrelson goes through the motions he along with other people behind the scenes start to realize they not only need to prep Palin but tell her what exactly needs to be said.

Julianne did a lot a of great prep to actually play Palin.  In interviews with both Jon Stewart and Ellen she talked a lot about how she watched clips of her on youtube to get the voice down.  Moore did a great job of not mimicking Palin.  Everyone loved Tina Fey's portrayal (maybe not everyone) but Moore takes it a step further as Fey did a brilliant job for the purpose her sketches Moore did more to create a whole person.  One of the most interesting parts of the film were the meta moments where Moore as Palin watched Tina Fey Fey play Palin. This was incredibly well done, and in these moments Moore shows Palin's vulnerability.  The film gives this woman a fair shake (in my opinion).  Palin does still come across like a nut, but she also has more humanistic qualities.  Palin was overwhelmed by the notoriety, and in this short time not only did she start to lose sanity, but as she moved forward she gained tremendous celebrity and has used this stay famous ever since.

I could talk about Moore, and her portrayal for a while but like within the campaign people should have talked a little bit more about John McCain.  Harris did not try to talk like the man, but he did what this man was about.  McCain wanted to run a good clean campaign, but as celebrity took over and he realized he was not enough of one he played the game.  Harris's face realizes his downward spiral as he is speaking with the older woman in the town forum calling Obama a Muslim; he has has realized he has gone too far and ran a campaign he longer wants to win.

How did politics become something much different in this last election?  Each candidate seemed to make this race about something more than merely the issues.  The American people acted as though the Obama Palin divided was team Jenn or team Angelina, most about celebrity  Game Change does a great job of highlighting how this election changed things within each party and about what people focus on with the candidates.  One of the best moments for me is when Nicolle Wallace (Sarah Paulson) who preps Palin for the couric debate cries into Steve Schmidts arms saying I did not vote.  Wallace is a smart woman who recognized the behind the scenes muck and celebrity made things different and brought a woman to fame that had no business being elected the the Vice Presidency.

The fish made a lasting impression on myself and shows how this election made a lasting impression on the who, what when, where, and why of modern day political elections.

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