In the run-up to the airing of the HBO movie “Game Change,” its detractors were told that the movie was fair and that the filmmakers tried to make it “as balanced as possible.” That it wasn’t just two hours of Sarah Palin-bashing. Now that the movie has aired, their defenses have been undermined by the truth.
“Game Change” is everything that conservatives feared it would be.
Starring Oscar nominee Julianne Moore in the lead role of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, “Game Change” is a strange adaptation of the nonfiction book written by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. The adaptation is odd because it took one of the book’s storylines and focused solely on that. The original book was entitled “Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime.” And as the title suggests, Palin was a supporting player in it.
But in this new Jay Roach HBO drama, Palin is the star. Roach—it should be noted—previously brought us the forgettable 2008 political drama “Recount.” Like “Game Change,” “Recount” painted Republicans in a negative light and—surprise, surprise-- aired in the midst of a presidential campaign.
“Recount” also presented the female politician at its heart as a caricature, rather than as an actual person. Portrayed by Laura Dern, the character of Florida Secretary of State Katharine Harris was unfairly maligned in that film.
In “Game Change,” Palin is the one who is presented as a goofy and unfair caricature. She is depicted as an angry demanding diva who wants her way at all costs. She throws tantrums, yells and breaks her promises about supporting the McCain ticket. Her personality is extremely exaggerated and distorted in this film.
Multiple sources have already noted how many facts “Game Change” gets wrong. But in addition to such facts, it’s hard to argue that the movie’s format isn’t set up with the deck firmly stacked against the Republican ticket.
For instance, there are two ideologies presented in this film. There are conservatives and there are liberals. Even if you don’t follow politics, you can differentiate the two in this movie. The conservatives are portrayed by actors and the liberals are portrayed by themselves.
That means that Palin and McCain--along with their aides and allies-- are portrayed by people who likely don’t share their political ideology. In itself, that’s acceptable but on the other hand, their opponents are portrayed with real footage.
For instance, when we see then-Senator Obama, we are watching the real candidate. He is seen giving his campaign speech in Berlin and at the 2008 Democratic convention without any distortions. Of course, we also see Obama’s adoring fans, weeping and celebrating the Democratic candidate. Members of the media get the same treatment with real footage of them used in the piece.
It’s only the conservatives who don’t get a real showing here.
It should be noted that there is one sole exception, not of a liberal being portrayed by an actor but by a liberal being caricatured in the film. That is John Edwards, who is seen in this infamous but wildly entertaining YouTube video.
But overall, I was grossly disappointed in “Game Change.” From adapting only a section of the book-- the section that paints conservatives in a negative light-- and by creating caricatures instead of characters, the film presents a distorted look at the Republican presidential campaign of 2008.
Admittedly, I was and continue to be a fan of Julianne Moore and Ed Harris. I wish, though, that they-- and others associated with this project-- would have worked harder to present a more fair and accurate portrayal of Governor Palin and Senator McCain.
For Hollywood and HBO to do that, it would have been a change from what audiences usually expect. Now that would be a real game change.