I began writing DEEP DISH on August 19, 2008, and ten days later on August 29, Republican Presidential nominee John McCain - and his advisors - selected Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate. Of course, I had to blog about her because of her obvious pop culture connection - she looked like actress Tina Fey! I also wrote the following:
"Yes, it's a bold, surprising choice for the Republicans, but it just might backfire on them. I don't think many Hillary Clinton supporters are going to embrace Sarah Palin."And I was right. McCain's surprise turned out to be a disaster for him and his campaign - and authors John Heilemann and Mark Halperin later wrote all about it in their wonderful book, Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime, which deliciously exposed what went on behind-the-scenes of the 2008 presidential election. Now HBO has produced a film adaptation simply called Game Change, which focuses entirely on McCain and Palin. I would've loved to have seen a miniseries version featuring Obama, the Clintons and John and Elizabeth Edwards, but since we are yet again in the midst of a presidential election year, I'm glad that Game Change: The Movie is only about the Republican side of the story, which is just as fascinating to watch as it was to read (Obama does appear in many video clips throughout the film - and John Edwards makes an amusing YouTube cameo). But director Jay Roach (whom I just discovered directed the 1999 Russell Crowe film, Mystery, Alaska, which seems only fitting) and screenwriter Danny Strong (whom I fondly remember as Paris' boyfriend Doyle on TV's Gilmore Girls) offer a surprise of their own by making us feel some sympathy for the three main characters - Palin, McCain and his campaign's chief strategist Steve Schmidt. And that is what makes the movie more than just one long hilarious Palin bashing. Yes, there are moments when even I felt sorry for Sarah, who is portrayed as an ambitious but often clueless woman. She also comes across as a caring mother and a talented "actress" with a gift for being able to memorize lines and connect with an audience.
While Tina Fey gave us a fabulous comedic impersonation on Saturday Night Live, actress Julianne Moore delves much deeper in her amazing performance as Palin. She perfectly captures the frustration that the woman experienced while floundering around at first as McCain's VP selection (i.e. the infamous Katie Couric interview), but later Moore succeeds in showing us how she took back her own life - and took over McCain's campaign - by "going rogue" and embracing her star power. It is definitely an Emmy-worthy performance (and you can't help but love the scenes where Moore's Palin watches Fey's Palin on television). I would also like to see Ed Harris and Woody Harrelson receive some award nominations for their excellent portrayals of McCain and Schmidt, who both come to the painful realization that they have lost complete control of the campaign. The supporting cast is equally good - especially Sarah Paulson as Nicolle Wallace, Palin's chief aide, and Jamey Sheridan as Mark Salter, one of McCain's advisors. And it was nice to see actor Austin Pendleton in a silent cameo role as Senator Joe Lieberman.
I think most Democrats will enjoy watching Game Change - and most Republicans will not (no surprise there). However, as much as I liked the film, all that 2008 presidential drama now seems almost tame compared to what is going on during the current election year. Near the end of the movie, McCain tells Palin: “You’re one of the leaders of the party now, Sarah. Don’t get co-opted by Limbaugh and the other extremists. They’ll destroy the party if you let them.” Truer words were never spoken as we've recently seen Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and others voice their scary extreme views - and then there's Mr. Limbaugh, whose big mouth continues to turn stomachs. These folks are ruining the Republican Party, which might as well be called the "Tea" Party from now on. But sadly there are many people who agree with everything they say - and come November they will cast their vote for the party's candidate, which brings me back to Game Change. I see the movie as a rallying cry of mixed emotions for Democrats - making us dread the next eight months while at the same time preparing us for the next great battle.
For more information on Game Change, which begins this Saturday (March 10) on HBO, click here.