Saturday, March 24, 2012

"Game Change" (2012) - Movie Review

I have been a stranger to the current affairs and always have considered myself to be an outsider in that part of the world. My daily updates of current affairs comes through reading Google news and other media news as “Conan”. Funnily enough, the 2008 Presidential election was the one I paid close attention to. While I was curious about the system of election created by “Recount”, the obvious attention came from the stunner of Vice President nominee by Republican camp runner Senator John McCain.

Coming from the same crew who brought “Recount”, “Game Change” goes through the chaos that happened behind the calamity. The choice of Sarah Palin and the eventual media craziness that followed through cannot be forgotten as it was the biggest display of real time entertainment in the ultimate seriousness of the election and in the midst of global economy crashing deeper than that. Written by Danny Strong off the book of same name by John Heileman and Mark Halperin, Jay Roach directs this with somewhat subdued version. He does not go for the theatrics as he did with “Recount”.

To choose someone to play Sarah Palin would be a challenge and to portray her without making her a complete joke but retaining the sense of it and grounded to reality would have been a tremendous challenge. Julianne Moore stands up for the challenge and quite spectacularly makes us not laugh on her impersonation as Tina Fey did in the SNL (that runs throughout the film as well), but make us see her as this person who is suddenly brought into the spotlight and flooded with fame and response overwhelming her.

The film is through the eyes of one of the campaign front line personnel Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson). They are the sharks in this open water and they can smell blood a mile away. Here they sense it through the threat Barrack Obama poses. He is of course immaculate in his speeches, thoroughly prepared and has the presence someone can be proud calling their leader. All those qualities attribute to a celebrity and that is exactly the race is. Schmidt and his colleagues Rick Davis (Peter MacNicol) and speech writer Mark Salter (Jamey Sheridan) bring forth to John McCain (Ed Harris). McCain asks them to pick a player for their worries. Rick finds the woman.

After the 2008 election, I had the opportunity to read about John McCain through one of the essays of David Foster Wallace wherein he covered the Republican nomination primaries in 2001-2002. I developed a great respect for the man and here he is portrayed as the same who is quite vehement on his morales. Despite that politics plays its ugly games on you when desperation seeks in. They do not have the money as that of the Democratic party and they need a great stir monetarily and psychologically.

“Game Change” goes through most of its contents in recreating interviews which was out in public. Those are of course quintessential to this story but the back door scenes are where we really learn about Sarah Palin. She is a good looking and caring mother with great belief in the belief she holds dear. One would have imagined her yelling and jumping on the air for the opportunity but she is perturbed, collected and calm. Despite her naivety, she is so clear on the path she has been alloted. Schmidt is surprised by that. Yet at the same time, they know there is more to this woman. She is a wild card and importantly a gamble. They take that.

The film despite its good execution and definitely a fair treatment on the person and the situation lacks the punch “Recount” had. May be it is because I knew the drama that happened in this ruined the anticipation. Harrelson and Harris play a stellar supporting role but the clear winner of course is Moore as Palin. She makes her a full person rather than a caricature to be laughed on about, which we do but with a different perspective. The film follows the curve of this person who without a doubt created a stir and rode the wave. She is likable as everyday person. She loves her country and the god she believes in. She is devoted to her family and adores Alaska. She is instantly encouraged to heights and discouraged to deep end. What we see is a grown up woman going through the cycle of this unforgiving field of politics and behaving like a kid. Steve Schmidt and company take the heat as they should as they overlooked the process of vetting her and paid the price. They were more involved in turning around the buzz that they forgot about the real reason of the election despite the cynicism it has bode over the years. Deep underneath those reality show media and dirty games, there still is the great expectation of good leaders in the country that hails the freedom in its deepest sense.

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