Watching the HBO movie Game Change, based on the book by the same name, by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, about the 2008 election, three things came to mind.
First: Julianne Moore is a dead ringer for Sarah Palin. She looked like her, sounded like her, and embodied her in a way that was uncanny. Watching Moore’s version of Palin watch Saturday Night Live comedienne Tina Fey’s spoof of Palin was truly surreal.
Second: If everything in the film, and the book it’s based on, are true, America narrowly escaped disaster, and McCain and his team did the country a disservice by proposing to allow Sarah Palin anywhere near the White House.
The woman portrayed in both the book and the film was self-confident when first selected as Sen. John McCain’s vice presidential running-mate, but was so clearly unprepared and lacking in knowledge, even about her own thoughts on global warming (assuming she had any) that it was beyond irresponsible of the campaign to throw a ‘Hail Mary’ by putting her on the ticket. Then again, the game of politics today is partly about creating “buzz,” and building celebrity, and the selection of Palin for the GOP ticket in 2008 certainly did that.
The third takeaway: There should definitely be a Game Change 2.
The book, which I read, along with most other political junkies, was an exhaustive and deeply sourced look at four campaigns: McCain-Palin, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and the Barack Obama campaign. It’s filled with rich stories from each: the Clinton campaign’s downward spiral as they came to realize they had underestimated the young Senator from Illinois; the deeply (and ultimately, tragically) dysfunctional Edwards marriage, and the relative stability and confidence — sometimes bordering on overconfidence — of the Obama campaign.
The HBO film, directed by Jay Roach, whose directing credits also include Meet the Fockers and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (he also produced Borat, which given the current state of our politics, all seems appropriately ridiculous…) focuses on the disaster candidacy of Palin, the former governor of Alaska.
Throughout the film, Moore’s Palin sputters from incoherence on basic facts about the world to seemingly catatonic states of depression as she obsesses over her poll numbers back home, pines for her children, and piles up stacks of note cards full of information about Iraq, the 2008 financial crash, and other topics about which she seemed completely unaware before she met Republican strategist Steve Schmidt and his team.
We all watched that happen. And we’re all painfully aware of the folly of John Edwards’ campaign, extramarital affair, and news of an out-of-wedlock child, which preceded his wife’s tragic death. But the Edwards’ tale, plus the back story behind the epic clash between the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigns, seem tailor made for TV or the big screen.
In HBO’s Game Change, Obama, Edwards, and Joe Biden play themselves (Hillary doesn’t make an appearance), via archival video that also inserts well-known subjects from the mainstream media, from Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer, to Katie Couric. But in a sequel, it would be fascinating to see if the filmmakers could find doppelgangers for Obama, Clinton and the rest, to match Julianne Moore, Ed Harris as John McCain, Sarah Paulson as Nicole Wallace, and Woody Harrelson, who turns in a great performance as strategist Steve Schmidt.
Sure, it’s all water under the bridge now that Obama is president, and Clinton his secretary of state. But if HBO decided to give it a go, based on the current version, I’d definitely watch.
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