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Film Critic for Twin Cities Live

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Movie Review: GAME CHANGE

Director: Jay Roach
Starring: Julianne Moore, Ed Harris, Woody Harrelson, Peter MacNicol

Is being a celebrity in the people’s eye more important than having the experience and competency to run a nation? Many people considered Barack Obama an instant celebrity when he started his presidential campaign. In the world of YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets the world was quickly captivated by this potential president. Steve Schmidt (Harrelson) was one of John McCain’s (Harris) campaign strategists and advisors going into the 2008 presidential election. McCain and his team seemed at a loss on who to run as vice-president with McCain. The RNC campaign in St. Paul, MN was coming up and they were losing steam as Obama was gaining momentum. Schmidt declares that none of the gentleman like Tim Pawlenty had that “celebrity” feel to them like Obama did. They needed the “game change” to get them back in the lead. They envisioned someone who had the celebrity feel yet could still relate to the average voter. McCain was also trailing with the female voters. Schmidt and fellow campaign manager, Rick Davis (MacNicol), suggest a female vice presidential. After going through a list of potential governors, they pick Sarah Palin (Moore). They believe they have hit the jackpot with the governor of Alaska. She may not have the experience like some of her male counterparts, but Schmidt feels like she can get vetted in five days and be ready for the campaign run.

The key was to keep the announcement of Palin as the Vice President a secret right up until the moment John McCain announces it. If word were to leak, the Obama campaign could run with it. After giving an exceptional speech at the Republican National Convention, Palin proved she was great with the crowds and instantly became the “celebrity” they wanted her to become. After an interview with Charlie Gibson, Schmidt realized that Palin does not handle one-on-one interviews well and her knowledge on foreign policy is less than impressive. Flashcards and mock interviews do not seem to bode well for Sarah. The pressure seems to escalate as interviews with Katie Couric and a spoof on "Saturday Night Live" paint her as a laughable idiot who doesn't have a clue of what she's talking about. Schmidt and fellow campaign advisers decide to treat her like she's an actress. As long as they feed her the lines and answers to say, she seems to stay on course.

With many presidential movies, you have to wonder if the filmmakers are going to put a political statement in there. Is it going to be for or against one political party or the other? Sarah Palin has not seen the movie yet, but seems to be against it. I think the filmmakers do a pretty good job of not taking sides. They stay on pretty neutral ground for the most part. While some of the dialogue or situations seem absurd, it comes straight from the transcripts of the interviews. Even when they talk about her inexperience, the script does mention various accomplishments of Palin’s to make up for it. At times, you do feel very sympathetic for her for getting thrust into a world she clearly wasn’t ready for. Game Change has stellar performances from everyone. Ed Harris nails John McCain especially aging him as he is much younger than McCain himself. Julianne Moore is absolutely stunning as Palin. She has nailed the very distinct accent and physicality without going into a comedic version like Tina Fey did. You definitely notice the shift in stature and attitude the further Palin gets into the campaign run. I would not be surprised in the slightest if she wins the SAG, Golden Globe, and Emmy for Best Actress in a TV Movie.

It premieres Saturday, March 10 on HBO. I'm assuming they will re-air it numerous times and have it on OnDemand if you miss it that evening.

RATING: **** (4 out of 5 stars)

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