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Delayed recap: HBO’s “Game Change”

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HBO’s “Game Change,” a film based on the 2008 presidential campaign, has been nominated for 12 Emmys, including “Outstanding Miniseries or Movie.”

Based on the book by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, the majority of the story details the battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The film focuses solely on Sarah Palin’s entry and impact on the race, although she isn’t mentioned in the book until the second half — only about 45 of its pages, roughly one-tenth of the book.

Debuting to an impressive 2.1 million viewers in March, “Game Change” is one of HBO’s most successful original movies ever.

Curious why the left focuses this much time on a person seemingly so dense and unelectable, I wanted to see for myself but also was asked to provide a review.


A look back, a few hours after it premiered …

1:20 am — Just started watching, probably catch the rest in the morning. Five minutes in, it’s clear the makers don’t have a lot of Republican friends or are just blatantly stereotyping, probably both. It doesn’t feel as if anyone is real. A lot of news clips: positive from the usual, CNN, NBC. Fox News clip of Hannity, when they needed a downer.

We’re to believe that they found Palin by Googling potential female candidates. They didn’t know anything about her, couldn’t think of any possible GOP women.

1:28 am — Julianne Moore is usually a stickler for research and dedication, it’ll be interesting to see how the actors portray the roles based on personal political leanings.

1:40 am — It’s gotten a bit ridiculous already. Palin’s overly crazed by religion, unfazed by the spotlight because it’s “God’s plan.” They’re also showing her in a hotel during the daytime on the east coast, watching Obama’s Denver nomination speech live. It was an evening speech, probably around 10 pm Eastern. If they’re this loose with the properties of sunset as a result of the Earth’s rotation, it’s easy to start questioning attention to detail.

2:04 am — You wonder, the effort some of these actors are putting into it. Ed Harris is pretty bad. Wooden, deer in the headlights look on his face — then again, that’s McCain — like at any moment, he could have explosive diarrhea and he’s trying really hard to keep everything in check. It’s just not a good job.

Palin’s convention speech was better than dramatized, though they have us believe she knocked it out of the park. Two-dimensional everything, it’s distant. Moore’s a bit stiff, not as loose as Palin was when she gave the speech, which was half of her appeal.

Nobody willing to go overboard portraying characters in a good light. My guess is it’s by design, they’re playing people they don’t particularly like, at least that’s how it comes off.

Way the fuck too much guidance by religion — you hardly hear Palin speak in scripture like this. She sounds like Billy Graham, or Steve Martin in “Leap of Faith.” Praaaaaise Jesus! Hallelujah.

We’re at the part where Palin inspires the nutjobs to come out of the forest, interviewing regular people who live east of Brentwood and west of Manhattan — and they’re all gun-toting whacks.

2:20 am — Palin is apparently so stupid that they’ve pulled out a world map and are teaching her about the countries. This is amazing. Told that “Germany was the primary protagonist of World War II” and Sarah diligently takes notes.

She’s unable to answer any question without being coached. If she’s this dumb, she isn’t sitting there. It’s not like her name was pulled out of a hat, she didn’t win a contest. I bet $40 someone dabs drool from her chin before this thing wraps up.

I’m pretty sure McCain has dropped the F-bomb in every scene he’s been in. Bigger worry, Ed Harris is about to shit his pants.

2:40 am — It’s all the sniping coverage of Palin, wrapped into one neat little package. It’s gone south fast, they’re calling her mentally unstable. They’re lampooning her, not Moore so much but the script and every character around her. If anything, showing her as a mess reinforces how uncharacteristically she pulled off the VP debate and convention speech. Dueling personas, either in reality or whatever this version is.

I heard it mentioned they put her in hockey jerseys twice, as if to hammer the point she’s a hockey mom without doing the work of showing what the term might actually mean. Lazy.

2:53  am — Third hockey jersey. She’s essentially a trained monkey. I’m waiting for Woody Harrelson to feed her treats.

Fox News exists only to show something in a negative light. In war rooms, GOP strategists watch CNN exclusively because that happens nowhere.

3:38 am — Advisers watching her debate performance. She answers the first question and does well, advisers act surprised. “She’s doing great!?!” — almost aghast that it might be possible. They coach her for weeks and are satisfied that she’s ready, then she speaks without falling down and they’re shocked. Stupid.

All campaign staff are spooked whenever Palin walks into the room. I’m expecting a catfight to break out at any moment. Nobody wants to be in the same room with her.

Watching it to the end. Advisers blame the election loss on her, apologize for picking her. Then again, why would McCain staff blame themselves for running a losing campaign? Self-serving.

After the election, McCain tells Palin she’s a leader of the Republican party. He says to not “get co-opted by Rush Limbaugh and the other extremists, they’ll destroy the party if you let them,” describing the conservative base. If this was actually said, THAT explains why McCain lost. Squishy in the middle maverick who couldn’t rally the base because he’s so often sold it out — the whole point of the 2008 campaign was, why elect Obama-light when you can get full-strength Obama?

Overall, it never had the feel that I’m watching Sarah Palin or John McCain. Too much of a cheesy Forest Gump vibe, splicing actual footage with laughably noticeable staged close-ups.  Positions weren’t right, hair was awful. It gets campy.

9:45 am — Excellent analysis. I have to see this.

11:44 am— Problem with watching a movie right before you go to bed, you dream about it all night. The one thing nagging me is how fast they made the pivot from Palin, worthy running mate, to Palin, she’s 6 years old. She’s texting, throwing tantrums, not paying attention to advisers, incapable of learning policy, oblivious, spiteful, uneducated. And okay, fine, I get it — just not all the freaking time. This person is disturbed, haunted. You need to weave a little mercy into a character, else it’s impossible to believe.

Palin is defeated in every scene, almost always self-inflicted. She’s Teddy Roosevelt in the mascot race at Nationals home games — the president’s race, she never wins.

1:19 pm — Heard a partial interview with the screenwriter and he swore that this wasn’t an HBO political ploy. We’re not seeing a Hillary/Obama movie now are we?

1:35 pm— Hardly a mention of Hillary and whenever they showed Obama, he was always above the fray. That only makes it more interesting to have gone behind the scenes of that one instead, better yet the Hillary/Obama primary fight — there’s the story. Why waste time on Palin? It was a purposeful attack.

Palin was the only thing energizing the ticket, hence the need to continue destroying her. If there wasn’t and still isn’t a fear of that energy, no reason to waste the ammo. She’s a moron incapable of doing anything right, so leave her alone, she’ll fall down an elevator shaft because she isn’t paying attention and problem solved.

It was estimated she gained 6% for McCain, who lost when he suspended the campaign. Yes, he’s Superman and he’s needed back in Metropolis at the Hall of Justice. What an idiot. That and he tried taking a knife to a gun fight against Chicago-style politics and everyone needing to tip-toe around race and history in the making. This is the essence of the Game Change story, which wasn’t told.

The one-third of the book that HBO chose to make three-thirds of the film, speaks to the need to focus on Palin. Sort of a weird fixation, considering how she was portrayed. No other story worth telling, like, say, the other nine-tenths of the book.

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© 2012, Soapy Johnson. All rights reserved.

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