Because I have HBO, because I am a student of human nature, because I follow politics (which is about human nature), naturally I was going to watch Game Change when it arrived Saturday night. I had read a lot of reviews regarding what the right and left wing thought of the film (right-- boo hiss, you there, yes, you in the bubble, do not watch; and left-- painted McCain as a saint and Palin too sympathetically). The film didn't try to follow the whole book which covered the left and the right side of the 2008 campaign.
Despite liking to follow politics in the papers, articles, news, etc., I had not read the book because I read very very few books about it-- not even Primary Colors, which was a best selling book with a somewhat similar behind the scenes look at politicians. If you remember Primary Colors, the author wanted to remain anonymous for a long time but was finally outed. That book, which also became a movie, was not friendly to the Clintons with the colors it painted them. I did see that film which starred Travolta as Clinton.
My reason for not reading Game Change was I had just been through it. I was tired of it, wanted to go on myself, and thought I pretty well understood what had happened behind the scenes. It was based not on a writer who had been on the scene but interviews and discussions with those who were (who would talk to them). I might read it now to get the Clinton/Obama story.
The McCain/Palin side of Game Change was all from the aides who had adored McCain and, I think, the story was impacted by that. If Senator McCain really chooses to never see the film, that's his choice, of course; but I thought it painted him as a heroic man, who if he had been president might have done a pretty good job at it (incidentally, something I do not think is the case). I've read criticisms that his picking Palin was shallow. The film didn't show it that way. It instead showed that did what he thought would be good for the country and his chance to win. You can't govern if you can't win!
I have often said I thought if he had picked who he wanted for VP, Joe Lieberman, he would have won. His aides felt he'd have lost his base. Seriously? That radical right group would have sat it out or voted for Obama? The mainstream Republican who always votes would not have? I disagree as they hated the idea of a leftie who was also black and charismatic. They would have come out and he'd not have lost so many in the middle.
Ed Harris, of course, always seems heroic even when he's a bad guy; but in this film he's playing a man who is good, who feels he deserves his shot at being president, believes his ideas are good ones, and ends up making a catastrophic choice, partly because he does fly by the seat of his pants and considers himself a risk taker. I have read a ton of reviews that disagree but still do not think the movie was unflattering to him.
You might say he trusted the wrong people, those who vetted her. Somehow they missed important questions that, to me, a grade school kid would know-- like that the Queen doesn't rule England. When Steve Schmidt heard her say that is when he knew (in the film) that they had a problem. It wasn't the complex other issues that was so disturbing but a simple lack of interest and knowledge of history and the world. They didn't ask her foreign policy questions until it was too late.
What the film showed was frankly a sympathetic view of a very complex woman, who had a back-up mode when threatened (one she wasn't kidding about in her speech-- pit bull with lipstick). Sarah Palin is depicted as a pretty nice person until she feels cornered. From all I have read of her performance in Alaska as mayor or governor, this wasn't new to her behavior. It's what she does when she is under pressure and feels out of her depth.
And boy was she out of her depth running for the vice-presidency of this country, and I think she felt she would become president through that route. I didn't expect to feel sympathy for her but teared up as I saw the pressure she had been under, her total frustration at being asked to do what she couldn't, separation from her family, and not being allowed to use what she felt were her best qualities. Moore said she was not aiming for a caricature but the real woman as the book evidently portrayed her. I felt she succeeded.
What Game Change showed was a woman who truly believed in her religion, her family, her own role in the greater picture. She simply didn't have the ability to understand deeper concepts. She had another ability though that made her very popular with a certain group-- she could connect with people, and she could arouse their passions.
As she learned her power, and felt betrayed by the McCain/Palin aides, she became the dark to Obama's light which makes it a bit ironic. By that, I mean, if you heard her speeches back then, she wasn't talking positively but rather playing to the fear and anger that some already felt at the possibility of an Obama presidency. She was heating up what was already a dangerous situation.
It turned the fall campaign into something John McCain didn't want as the people who were most angry and frightened at the possibility of Obama gaining power were stirred to a non-thinking rage. Whether the movie totally showed McCain accurately in all ways, I remember the news clips when he confronted these crowds, when he and his aides saw the hate and fear that was being aroused by a combination of the Palin rhetoric and the temper of the people. It is something that is still with us and only getting worse. Some politicians are stoking it and others see, as McCain did, where it was taking the country.
To me, Woody Harrelson, Julianne Moore, and Ed Harris were superlative. You do not get better actors than those three. I have seen the real Steve Schmidt many times on television and Harrelson nailed him as did the other two actors with Palin and McCain. They interspersed news footage of actual people with the actors and it worked to make you feel you were looking in on what happened.
Yes, it was from a viewpoint that Sarah Palin didn't discuss in her own book or the positive films about her. That's logical. Palin is not a deep thinker in terms of even assessing her own abilities. She could memorize lines and deliver them flawlessly. It showed her as totally believing in herself, if nobody got in her way; but she didn't grasp her own weaknesses.
To me one of her biggest flaws was her inability to put together facts into a concept. A + B = C. If you can't connect things, it is to me a fatal flaw if you want to be President of the United States. When asked to do that, she was nearly in tears. She just doesn't get the complexities of life, how things aren't black and white. In this film, they showed that to her-- they are. Which leads to my next blog because this subject deserves more than one.
Really though, don't be afraid of this film if you are leftie or rightie. It's well done, well acted, and like Ides of March, it does give an idea of what is behind the people out front, those who often make decisions for all the wrong reasons and without enough thought. Yes, it is from one viewpoint as was Palin's own memoir as well as that of Obama or McCain. What we as people need to do is be able to synthesize the different views into one truth. That's the catch, of course as well as a fact. A + B = ?