Game Change the Movie: A Review

The best parts of the movie Game Change was the look of panic that Ed Harris gives his staff when his audience turns really nasty against Obama. It gives a moment of humanity to a movie that otherwise is ripped straight from the headlines. And, while that might be enticing for a Law and Order episode, for a political movie, it feels like watching what I lived through by reading the news just last year.

It could be that I am just too much of a news junky to enjoy this movie, because everything felt like old hat. Plus, it seemed particularly mean to Palin–nothing in the movie surprised me, but after the first few scenes, we rarely see the charisma and following that she had. I would have liked to see a lot more about the people who were die hard Palin fans and fewer scenes (there were so many!) that said over and over again that she was unprepared for this.

Julianne Moore got the accent, but she wasn’t given much else to work with. It was basically just straight quotes from Palin. There were glimpses into how the campaign destroyed Palin, but there could have been more about how the campaign changed her personally.

The other parts that really worked in the movie were the interactions between the McCain staffers. Those moments were interesting and those characters showed a wide range of emotions and frustrations. I would have loved to see a movie that focused almost exclusively on them.

I am currently sitting in an event at which John Heilman, Mark Halperin — co-authors of the book– and Len Amato, the president of HBO films are speaking. Halperin just said that the movie was not only about the principals, but also about the staff. I really would have liked to see a whole lot more about the staff. I once heard that the television show The West Wing was originally not going to have anyone be the president; it was just going to be the staff, and sometimes the President’s back would be glimpsed but nothing more. They clearly scrapped that very early on in the West Wing development process, but it might have been something facsinating — a movie about McCain/Palin staff and about the Palin  fans–to do with this particular plot, where everyone already knows the principals.

Heilman, the other author of the book, said that the chapters of the book that dealt with Palin were “a series of big set pieces,” big events that shaped the campaign. Ultimately, the movie hits those set pieces, but rarely goes much deeper.

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