December 22, 2011 at 3:13 pm #235355
The teaser trailer to HBO’s upcoming “Game Change” telefilm is out. As previously reported, the focus is on the McCain/Palin campaign and not on Obama/Biden or the Democratic primary candidates. Even in this brief clip, Julianne Moore is already must-see as Sarah Palin.December 22, 2011 at 3:17 pm #235357
I will reiterate what I said in the other page, that I’m worried about her voice the most. I have no doubt she’ll be able to do the rest, but it’s the voice that I’m most worried about. That’s always been Moore’s weak spot for me.December 22, 2011 at 7:54 pm #235358
I’d be very suprised if a movie about these losers could actually be interesting.January 31, 2012 at 3:24 pm #235360
Well I’ll be watching. Julianne Moore looks great in this, and there were plenty of scenes when she looks like she nailed the character. Ed Harris looked great in this too.
When does that Nicole Kidman movie come out? Is it later in the year, does Moore really have a clear path to finally stand on a stage and accept a televised award?
It might be a story about these “losers”, but it looks great and these guys apparently did a great job with Recount so who knows.January 31, 2012 at 11:40 pm #235361
The Nicole Kidman-Clive Owen TV movie will also come out in May, so Oscar fans will have a repeat of the Kidman-Moore clash almost a decade ago. This will also probably carry over to the Globes and the SAGs,
I’m excited with how Julianne will pull off this role, and yes, I want to see her at the podium this time. But I don’t think I’d sacrifice an Emmy speech for Kidman for it. LOL.February 1, 2012 at 1:59 pm #235362This post was found to be inappropriate by the moderators and has been removed.February 1, 2012 at 2:11 pm #235363
I’m not an expert on Sarah Palin and that whole story about her. I also don’t know shit about her book and what she revealed in it, but most of these scenes seem so unbelievable and gimmicky. Actually laughable. I will watch it because of the cast, but am expecting a certain ridiculousness which the cast might not compensate.February 1, 2012 at 9:06 pm #235364
I thought it couldn’t get more cartoonish than Recount, but they have topped themselves w/this! Julianne Moore is doing a parody and not a bitting one like Tina Fey.March 1, 2012 at 12:45 pm #235366
Game Change: TV Review
by Tim Goodman
The Bottom Line: Great performances probably won’t help this film bridge the partisan divide.
Airdate: 9 p.m. March 10 (HBO)
Cast: Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, Ed Harris
Director: Jay Roach
This review originally appeared in the March 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
It’s nearly impossible to make a political film based on real-life events without immediately polarizing one side. We are a fiercely partisan country that has never let facts get in the way of perception. We see what we want to see, and if someone, some book, some film or some cable news channel tries to distort the image we want to see, there will be blowback and outrage.
Which brings us to HBO’s “Game Change,” a film focusing on 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate and the fallout that ensues.
Despite virtuoso (and likely Emmy-winning) performances from Julianne Moore as Palin, Woody Harrelson as McCain’s strategist Steve Schmidt, and Ed Harris as McCain, there will be charges of left-leaning Hollywood bias in the portrayals.
“I haven’t seen HBO’s latest effort at manipulating history,” Tim Crawford, a top aide to Palin, told The Washington Post on Feb.17. “However, based upon the description and reports from people who have viewed the film ‘Game Change’, HBO has distorted, twisted, and invented facts to create a false narrative and attract viewers. They call it a docudrama; there is little ‘docu’ in it. HBO must add a disclaimer that this movie is fiction.”
And so it begins.
Based on the best-seller of the same name by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, “Game Change” was directed by Jay Roach and written by Danny Strong, the duo behind another HBO political film, 2008’s “Recount.”
The film isn’t trying to break ground with revelations, so what it comes down to is whether “Game Change” is a good movie, as opposed to a balanced documentary. For the most part, it is.
While Moore manages to nail the Palin character without being a mere caricature (a la Tina Fey, whose “Saturday Night Live” bits appear in the film), it’s Harrelson as Schmidt and Sarah Paulson as senior adviser Nicolle Wallace who provide the film’s behind-the-scenes drive. If the conceit is that McCain needed a game-changer to battle the charismatic Barack Obama, then picking Palin had a “high-risk, high-reward” element, made more so by the fact that she had to be vetted in five days, instead of the normal weeks-long process. Mistakes were made in the vetting, and as Schmidt, who lobbied McCain to pick Palin, and Wallace, who was in charge of prepping her for the press assault to come, both realize how out of her depth Palin is, the drama ratchets skyward.
In the process, interesting strands to the storytelling evolve. First, Palin becomes a sympathetic figure as she’s pulled away from her family and tossed into a situation she isn’t equipped to handle. National ridicule and the explosion of stories about her family begin to take their toll, and Moore effectively mines that vulnerable territory. While she’s doing that, “Game Change” boldly raises the question about whether Palin is mentally unbalanced. The right will no doubt see that as twisting the knife. It’s not until later, when Palin “goes rogue” and is more engulfed by fame (and increasing power), that you begin to hold her lack of intellectual gravitas against her. And again, Moore’s transformation into the more confident—and dangerous—Palin is spot-on.
It would be hard to call the portrayal sympathetic, however. The movie is told mostly through the eyes of Schmidt, whose gamble backfired, and his disdain for Palin grows exponentially as the story progresses.
McCain comes off best here, a maverick whose greatest flaw is how ambition blinds his natural political acumen. Even when he realizes Palin is a liability, the depiction is more sage and fatherly than embittered. The worst that could be said of McCain in the movie is that he, too, is complicit in the rash decision, and he allows himself to be steered too easily in pursuit of the White House.
Schmidt’s role is the most interesting—and ultimately damning for Palin, given that his interview on “60 Minutes” at the end of the film lays the blame at her feet. Paulson’s Wallace portrayal also is a blunt hammer to the Palin camp, as her nuanced patience with Palin runs out when she sees her transform from neophyte to loose cannon. That undoubtedly will be perceived as lefty spin, no matter how exceptional Paulson’s performance, particularly because of the blatant comparison to Hillary Clinton’s accomplishments.
And that’s the ultimate problem with “Game Change.” It’s a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at politics—as long as you’re a Democrat (or a Republican willing to admit that Palin was a blunder—but even then, the other elements will likely put you off). And yet, credit “Game Change” for at least trying to dramatize that moment in time. It is, for the left especially, an indictment of anti-intellectualism and our inherently flawed system for choosing our leaders.March 7, 2012 at 9:56 am #235367
Entertainment Weekly’s review:
Game Change (2012)
Reviewed by Ken Tucker | Mar 01, 2012
“Game Change” is based on a small portion of the best-selling book of the same name by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin—the portion that eviscerates John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate in the 2008 presidential campaign. While Palin herself has said that watching this HBO production is a waste of time, she need not fear further erosion of her reputation. She is impersonated here with a high degree of accuracy by no less than Julianne Moore, who portrays her as a devoted mother and a plucky campaigner.
No, it’s the staff surrounding McCain and Palin that is more criticized and humiliated by the “Game Change” adaptation from scripter Danny Strong. The TV movie’s narrative homes in on the crucial error made right from the start. Palin’s vice presidential vetting process lasted a mere five days (other possible veeps were subjected to months of scrutiny, we’re told) simply because McCain strategist Steve Schmidt (a gleaming-domed, ferocious Woody Harrelson) was convinced Palin was a “star,” a charismatic caparison/complement to McCain (embodied with often breathtaking accuracy by Ed Harris). No matter that she had no idea why, for example, North and South Korea were two separate countries.
Jay Roach, who directed the “Austin Powers” films and won an Emmy for the HBO political drama “Recount,” knows from parody and keeps his actors from slipping into it. That’s crucial for Moore, since it’s tempting to overdo Palin’s twangy, consonant-droppin’ speech and wayward use of grammar—the very qualities Tina Fey exaggerated meticulously on “Saturday Night Live,” a performance we see Palin/Moore watch, aghast, in “Game Change.”
There’s no point in trying to argue that “Game Change” is a “fair” film: In ignoring the source book’s long sections on Hillary Clinton’s campaign in order to concentrate on McCain and Palin, and by re-creating many of the latter’s greatest gaffes—her inability to cite a single newspaper she’s read in her Katie Couric interview, for instance—it obviously means for us to snort and chuckle. (The movie does a wizardly job of editing actual footage of Couric and other interviewers so that they interact seamlessly with Moore’s Palin.) But “Game Change” does stress a theme that applies to both sides of the aisle. Schmidt is the one who articulates it, while talking about the ever-changing “48-hour news cycle”: Trying to calm fears that Palin’s flubs will hurt McCain, he asserts, “The news is no longer meant to be important. It’s just entertainment.” And as we can see in the current election year, news-as-entertainment more than ever renders political issues superficial, with a media corps anxious to focus on whoever is the current poll-winning “star.”
Grade: A-March 7, 2012 at 10:06 am #235368
(HBO; Sat., March 10, 9 p.m.)
by Brian Lowry
Credits: Filmed in Maryland and New Mexico by Playtone in association with Everyman Pictures. Executive producers, Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman, Jay Roach; co-executive producers, Danny Strong, Steven Shareshian; producer, Amy Sayres; director, Roach; writer, Strong; based on the book by Mark Halperin, John Heileman.
Sarah Palin – Julianne Moore
Steve Schmidt – Woody Harrelson
John McCain – Ed Harris
Rick Davis – Peter MacNicol
Mark Salter – Jamey Sheridan
Nicolle Wallace – Sarah Paulson
Mark Wallace – Ron Livingston
Todd Palin – David Barry Gray
Chris Edwards – Larry Sullivan
From HBO’s perspective, “Game Change” is a home run: a big, smart, entertaining, and extremely promotable showcase for marquee stars, generating tons of attention (flattering and otherwise) from political and media strongholds in D.C. and New York, in addition to the usual suspects. Reuniting the creative team behind “Recount,” this adaptation culled from the much-discussed book about the 2008 party primaries and presidential campaign here narrowly focuses on Sarah Palin, and in the broad strokes, it’s red meat for the channel’s liberal base. Viewed less passionately, though, the former Alaska governor is treated more empathetically than her knee-jerk defenders might admit.
Clearly, HBO, director Jay Roach and writer Danny Strong knew exactly what they were doing by zeroing in on Palin, a wildly polarizing figure—alternately viewed as the maligned protector of conservative principles and as Chauncey Gardiner in “Being There”—who, even after bowing out of the 2012 race, remains catnip to the punditocracy. Few TV movies seem so assured of coverage in Maureen Dowd’s New York Times column.
Although Julianne Moore’s uncanny mimicry of Palin’s verbal tics will surely attract praise, the movie revolves around an equally compelling performance by Woody Harrelson as GOP strategist and campaign operative Steve Schmidt, who—recognizing the winds lifting Barack Obama—pressed for a “game-changing” vice presidential selection.
“If he heals a sick baby, we’re really fucked,” a staffer mutters sardonically, watching Obama’s speech before adoring crowds in Berlin.
Nominee John McCain (Ed Harris, perfectly cast, and also terrific) wants to run a dignified race. As the polls looked increasingly desperate, however, his team began throwing haymakers—with Palin more than willing to play the role of hatchet woman that the campaign required.
Roach makes one especially savvy move: Inserting Moore as Palin, “Zelig”-style, into well-documented scenes still fresh in the memory—the Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson interviews, her convention speech, etc. Meticulously replicating those moments subtly adds credibility and authenticity to the behind-the-scenes exchanges drawn from the book.
To all appearances Palin was in over her head, possessing frightfully limited knowledge of world events and history that made her ripe for ridicule. There are some especially meta moments in that regard, with an embarrassed Palin, as played by Moore, watching Tina Fey’s devastating “Saturday Night Live” imitation of her.
Nevertheless, the portrait isn’t entirely unsympathetic, reflecting how the frustration of those playing Henry Higgins to Palin’s Eliza Doolittle—foremost GOP strategist Nicolle Wallace (Sarah Paulson)—was mirrored by Palin’s own anguish over being characterized as an unschooled hick. And if she eschews profanity (she refers to a debate prep session as being “flippin’ awesome”) those surrounding her have no such compunctions.
“Name one fucking paper!” Schmidt erupts at the TV during the Couric interview.
Schmidt—who has since become an adept MSNBC analyst—is clearly shown to harbor buyer’s remorse over a hastily vetted, “high risk, high reward” choice, meant to cynically pander to the Republican base.
Yet if “Game Change” concludes that selecting Palin was irresponsible, the movie doesn’t blame her for it. Nevertheless, it’s already been attacked and dismissed by Palin surrogates—shedding crocodile tears, no doubt, given how a product of “liberal Hollywood” allows her to play the victim, again, of the much-despised elitist media.
Beyond the campaign, the movie yields sobering observations about the legitimacy of cable news (“all just bullshit”), modern political extremism, and the shrillest voices influencing the Republican Party.
“It wasn’t a campaign. It was a bad reality show,” Schmidt says ruefully.
Palin subsequently starred in a bad reality show and remains a lightning rod for controversy. In a way, though, HBO has something in common with the beleaguered McCain brain trust—seeking a bold pick to excite key constituencies. And by that measure, the network’s choice is flippin’ awesome.
Camera, Jim Denault; production designer, Michael Corenblith; editor, Lucia Zucchetti; music, Theodore Shapiro; casting, David Rubin, Richard Hicks. 118 MIN.March 7, 2012 at 11:27 am #235369
Random question.. Has Julianne Moore EVER won an award on a televised show??
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