“Game Change”-ing History.
There is no doubt in my mind that former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin struggled when she was chosen to be Senator John McCain’s running mate. That is not to say that, as the new HBO film “Game Change” strongly implies, that Gov. Palin is dumb. But as her released emails show, she was so dedicated to being a good governor in a remote state that being plucked from relative obscurity, she was not really properly prepared on the national scene. The sourced book “Sarah from Alaska” spells all of this out in detail. There were some scenes in the film “Game Change”, which was based on another book, that were familiar from “Sarah from Alaska,” like the dysfunctional campaign staff, which comes off as disorganized and haphazard. The authors Scott Conroy and Shushannah Walshe (both of whom frequently receive seemingly Palin approved leaks) deliver the good, bad, and the ugly of Palin. They report that she was woefully unprepared to be Vice President, but also point out that considering her circumstance, she was quick on her feet and smart in picking things up while it was really the McCain campaign that screwed things up. They also report on Palin’s magnificent career as Governor of Alaska, which I suppose you can’t expect HBO to include in a two hour narrative they’re trying to control. After all, the accounts of disgruntled screw-up staffers including Steve Schmidt and Nicolle Wallace were far too juicy and more in line with the left’s view of Palin than the truth.
The real weakness of this film is the performance from Julianne Moore. While Ed Harris’ McCain rings true, as does Woody Harrelson’s Steve Schmidt, The same can’t be said of Julianne Moore’s portrayal of Palin. The film cuts to a Tina Fey parody and one can’t help but think that Moore is doing a parody of Fey doing a parody of Palin. It’s the left’s vision of Palin in full force: dim-witted and eeeevil. The problem with the Palin performance is that this is a film about her written from everyone else’s point of view. “The Iron Lady” which I saw late last year had a left-of-center bend in it’s story telling, the difference between that and this is that Meryl Streep and the film makers did their best to understand Thatcher, her motivations, and her core. Streep’s Oscar was, in my mind, well deserved as she elevated what would have otherwise been a left-wing hit job into a tour de force performance by literally inhabiting Thatcher. The writing, direction, and acting by Moore all sort of poke fun at Palin and never try to figure her out. Moore’s Palin is manipulative, spiteful, childish and nasty in this film. In “The Iron Lady” Steep’s Thatcher was portrayed as stern and harsh because she is a woman running what had been a man’s world. If Steep’s Thatcher is Shylock, a backhanded sympathetic portrayal of an enemy from the author’s point of view, Moore’s Palin is The Joker, an evil, pathetic sort of villain. The film depicts her being mentally unstable, bipolar and double minded. There are a few scenes showing Palin as a “loving mother” but it’s a bone thrown that has been overstated in reviews for the film. In one scene, Palin refuses to prep for her interview with Katie Couric, telling aide Nicolle Wallace she wanted to focus on Alaska. Then moments later she whisper’s in Schmidt’s ear “I so don’t want to go back to Alaska.” While Palin was certainly under prepared, The film shows her to be ignorant of the fact that the Queen has no direct say in governing the United Kingdom, yet during the 2008 election Gov. Palin cited Margaret Thatcher as an influence for running for office. The film also shows McCain foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann giving Palin a middle school history lesson on the World Wars, Palin scribbling the information down on note cards. Scheunemann discredits the scene saying that his conversations with Governor Palin where much deeper than that and were more about aligning her foreign policy views with those of McCain’s. Again, no one is denying that Palin needed more preparation but the film just takes it to a level that is not even recognizable, that is a sick parody of Palin rather than a balanced interpretation of events.
This is a film made by people who view the heartland and conservative territory as alien. As we’re frequently reminded through the film. A chief example of this is the Charlie Gibson-Katie Couric interview debacles. Nicolle Wallace made a huge strategic blunder by putting an unprepared VP candidate in front of two journalists who, especially in the case of Couric, lean left. There was so much interest in Palin that had she been interviewed by anyone, people would have watched. Why not put her in front of Sean Hannity to start with? But Wallace comes off as the level headed principled one telling an irritated Palin who says she knows what Hillary was going through that “yeah, you’re just like Hillary.” All of the scenes depicting crowds at McCain-Palin events bring out the conservative stereotypes. I remember going to a Palin event during the election and seeing some of those people – trucker hats and plaid shirts. But there were also Latinos, Asians at my event in Southern California, I was standing next to a African American family holding a Palin sign. They continue the “kill him” lie. Again conservatives are portrayed as “the others.” McCain’s campaign staff can’t believe all of the yahoos, while Palin blends in with them just fine.
The film’s moments are few and far between. Again, Palin is showed as a loving mother but very briefly. The media is also skewered. Schmidt is shown answering some of the more ridiculous questions from the press corp.
It doesn’t surprise me that “Game Change” is getting rave reviews because it’s nothing but two hours of leftist political porn. It does not challenge their point of view or make them think in any meaningful way, it is a two hour film designed to be a punching bag for frustrated leftists who hate Sarah Palin. If you’re looking for substantive film about Sarah Palin, you won’t get it here. The film makers could have adapted “Sarah from Alaska” and they would have gotten the “moments” they were looking for, but from a well sourced, truthful book. Instead they chose to adapt 40 pages from an unsourced book. What a shame, the real story behind Governor Palin is quite a remarkable one.