Game Change Reviews

March 14, 2012 by staff 

Game Change Reviews, When Mary Shelley wrote “Frankenstein, Or the Modern Prometheus” almost 200 years ago, little did she know that her novel would stand the test of time through countless reprinting and numerous adaptations in practically every media and language, but that her novel would contribute a template for a political narrative that unfolded three years ago.

That narrative, the improbable rise and inevitable fall of the former half-term governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, was only one of the subjects covered in John Heilemann and Mark Halperin’s exhaustive exploration of the 2008 presidential campaign.

Sarah Palin, however, is the central figure in Jay Roach’s adaptation of Heilemann and Helperin’s book, GAME CHANGE, for HBO. Barack Obama receives limited screen time via archival footage. Hilary Clinton doesn’t even get that much (she’s name-checked once in a convention speech).

Not surprisingly, right-wing conservatives went on the attack the moment they heard about HBO’s plan to focus exclusively on the McCain-Palin campaign. They didn’t buy claims by GAME CHANGE’s producers that a sitting president shouldn’t be the subject of a docudrama, regardless of intent or good-faith.

While GAME CHANGE isn’t likely to change their minds, it does something most, if not all, of Palin’s critics didn’t think possible. At times, GAME CHANGE almost makes Sarah Palin (adroitly played by Julianne Moore in a sure-to-be-Emmy-nominated role) a sympathetic (operative word being “almost”). It does, however, humanize Palin, making her an active participant in both her sudden ascent to national prominence as the second half of the presidential ticket and, as many critics and pundits remarked in 2008, a “72-year-old heartbeat away from the presidency,” to, if not her downfall (GAME CHANGE ends on the night of the election), then the completion of an arc that begins in egocentric ambition and ends in self-delusional hubris.

Between those two points, GAME CHANGE nimbly covers the key facts, all presumably verified, surrounding Arizona senator John McCain’s (Ed Harris) decision to pluck the then little-known Alaskan governor (only 18 months in office) in a desperate attempt to halt or slow Obama’s political momentum. Before McCain selected Palin at the end of August, he was down by double digits. Two months of futility awaited McCain and his campaign. Obama, a then inexperienced junior senator from Illinois, combined charisma and rhetoric unlike any politician since the right’s patron saint, Ronald Reagan. While Reagan was the seemingly kind, generous, compassionate grandfather, Obama was the youthful, virile, forward-looking leader. GAME CHANGE depicts the moment, one among many errors in judgment, when McCain and his campaign staff, dismissing Obama as a substance-free celebrity, decided they needed to do the same. McCain certainly couldn’t transform himself into Obama’s GOP mirror opposite. That role, McCain’s staff hoped, could and would be filled by Sarah Palin.

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