Written by Danny Strong
Directed by Jay Roach
Starring Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson and Ed Harris
Although I will never fully understand it, I was just another Canadian glued to my television set nightly leading up to the 2008 American presidential election. On the one hand, I was consumed by the idea of the change that then senator, Barack Obama, could bring to a country that so badly needed it, to say nothing of the historical possibility of an African-American president. But I will not deny that I was also deeply fascinated, and often just as disturbed, by the circus that was the John McCain campaign. GAME CHANGE, from the team who previously went behind the political curtain with RECOUNT to explore the 2000 election recounts in Florida, is not going to blow anyone’s mind with revelations about that campaign but it does make the whole insanity seem much more human than it came across.
Unlike the novel of the same name that GAME CHANGE is based on, by authors John Heileman and Mark Halperin, this HBO feature does not focus on the Democratic and Republican primaries. Instead, writer, Danny Strong, and director Jay Roach, introduce the film at a pivotal point in the McCain campaign and take it from there. Senator McCain, played by a reserved Ed Harris, is trailing Obama (not dramatized in the film) by far too many points to win the election and refuses to play dirty politics. So in order to win, his campaign manager (Woody Harrelson) suggests that they need a real game changer to compete with the celebrity status Obama had risen to. And so, McCain’s team heads out in search of a running mate that could somehow eclipse Obama’s star with one that shines even brighter. Unfortunately, their search did not include nearly enough research. Enter Sarah Palin.
And enter Golden Globe winner, Julianne Moore, in what seems like an effortless and yet beautifully layered portrayal of the former Governor of Alaska. While GAME CHANGE does make many a statement about the blunders that went into the rushed decision to bring Palin on to McCain’s ticket, the bigger focus is on Palin’s personal journey. Roach presents Palin as a patriotic woman with only the best of intentions to do right by her country when we first meet her and a bit power crazed by the end. Moore than takes that cue and reminds the viewer that she is also a caring mother, who genuinely connected with a great deal of the American people and who, after realizing she may have bit off more than she could chew, completely retreats from the outside world. Moore makes her human, shows us how scary it must have been for her to go through what she did, coming from where she came from. She isn’t painted as a saint by any means but showing us Sarah’s softer side reminds us that perhaps we too should be showing ours more often than we are now. Who knows? We just might change the game.