12 March 2012 | maggieameanderings
A Sympathetic Portrayal All Around
Without a doubt, Moore will get an Emmy nomination for her portrayal of Sarah Palin.......a portrayal that, for the first time, gave me an understanding of Palin and a real sympathy for her. It showed a confident, charismatic, but essentially superficial person used to swimming in the shallows. It was also a Sarah Palin who was a mother with a new baby, a son going off to Iraq, and a close-knit, loving family who was suddenly taken away from that family and was thrust into the meat-grinder of national politics. Instead of being able to transcend herself and grow from the experience, we see a Palin who instead wraps herself up even more into being just who she is and finds a demographic of fellow shallows swimmers who love her just the way she is. Unfortunate, but after seeing this movie you could understand how it happened.
Harris as McCain portrays a rather idealized statesman, one trying to take the high road. There's no mention of McCain's volatile and explosive temper. Instead we're presented with an understanding, but aloof man at odds with the direction his party is going in. Again a sympathetic portrayal.
The final portrayals are of the political operatives in the McCain campaign. As you can understand the way Palin's personality begins to fracture under the pressure, you can also understand the operatives incredible frustration in trying to deal with it. You can understand when one operative, Wallace, finally just refuses to work with Palin anymore. You can understand the frustration of people who have spent their lives being informed try to deal with a Palin who lacks the most basic knowledge of history, world affairs or even how the federal government works. The tutoring sessions remind you of high school brains who've been pressured by the principal into tutoring the well-meaning, but thick-as-a-plank star quarterback so he can play in the finals. The room is thick with frustration on both sides.
This is a movie with no villains in the cast. If there is a villain here, it's a condemnation of the political process whereby a running mate is chosen solely for the electoral votes that person can bring with no consideration if the running mate is actually capable of running the country.
EDIT on 18 July 2012:
I finally read the book "Game Change" over the weekend. This movie actually is based on a very, very small amount of the book; it's not even the whole of "Part 3" as stated/implied in several reviews. The book is 23 chapters long (Part 1 - 14 chapters, Part 2 - 3 chapters, Part 3 - 6 chapters). The McCain campaign starts being covered at the beginning of Part 2 and is covered for the rest of the book. This movie is taken from less than two chapters (out of six chapters) in Part 3: Chapter 20 "Sarahcuda" which is all about Palin and how she got selected and Chapter 22 "Seconds in Command" which as the title implies covers both VP nominees (Biden as well as Palin). Plus the movie uses four and a half paragraphs from Chapter 23 "The Finish Line": two paragraphs describing McCain's relationship with Palin and 2.5 paragraphs about McCain and the "crazies" (that's what the book calls them) who started showing up at his rallies. The book does not cover the actual day of the election, so none of the scenes from election day are from the book, neither are any of the private scenes between Palin and her family. It was surprising to me to see how little of the book that this movie was based on. But many of the Palin incidents in the book are depicted reasonably to very faithfully in this movie. Now having read the book, I feel that the movie brought a greater depth of sympathy and understanding to Palin than the book did. And John McCain definitely comes off a lot better and more sympathetic in the movie than the book as the book does not minimize his foul mouth, his temper, his obstinacy and the dysfunctional relationship with his wife. If you're thinking about reading the book believing you'll find out more about Palin than what's presented in the movie, you won't. But you will find out a lot more about the election. (FYI: The rating for this review was 26 out 30 prior to this edit. Can't say if those people would have kept the same opinion of the review with this addition.)