HBO’s ‘Game Change’ Advance Review – A Tree Too Far

Game Change HBO Review

If you are the sort to watch HBO Films’ Game Change, then you already know what happened to John McCain’s 2008 presidential run.

It’s the business end of an election year and republican senator, John McCain (Ed Harris), can’t catch a break. He’s trailing in the polls behind a political tsunami called, Barack Obama and if he isn’t going to be washed out to sea, then he needs to make a game-changing move, and fast.

That’s Steve Schmidt’s opinion. He’s McCain’s senior campaign strategist and it doesn’t take much for him to convince a desperate McCain that the move has to be something radical.

What that move is, and how it unravels, is so well documented (the movie is based on the bestselling book of the same name) that its subsequent outcomes hardly seem worth dramatizing.

Simply put, scared witless by Obama’s incandescent star power, Schmidt (Woody Harrelson) plucks Alaska governor Sarah Palin (Julianne Moore) from obscurity and pits the novelty of her selection (she is an unrepentant, pro-life conservative who ignites the republican base) against the groundswell of support (and cash) that Obama seems to effortlessly generate.

What ensues from that decision is the kind of political buffoonery that is comedy gold.

If late night comedians were public companies, you would have bought their stock – because what is initially Palin’s strength (an off-the-cuff make-it-up-as-you-go-along bluster) soon exposes itself as a weakness that is ripe for inspiring humiliating skits and late-night talk-show zingers.

Fair enough if you never liked the woman. Palin is an intellectual lightweight. Dan-Quayle dumb and ‘Game Change’ isn’t shy about making her look it. That’s not the screenwriter’s fault. Sarah Palin said those silly things.

How damning was the infamous Katie Couric, “I can see Russia from Alaska” interview? How funny the Tina Fey Saturday Night Live spoofs that followed? She brought it on herself thanks to her own greedy ambition and the help of enablers who would win even a Pyrrhic victory. So how much sympathy can you feel for someone seeking public office who doesn’t know Germany was the enemy during the world wars. Who doesn’t know England has a prime minister, or what is NAFTA or the Federal Reserve for that matter? Not much according to the film.

However, if ‘Game Change’ isn’t just an exercise in punishing an easy target (and that’s how it looks), then another view is that it suggests Palin isn’t so much dumb as she is overwhelmed – as most of us would be if we were thrust onto a national stage and asked the questions that we mock her for not knowing (while secretly wondering what the answers are).

But in the end how you ultimately respond to ‘Game Change’ will likely come down to which political tribe you belong.

It’s either liberal propaganda or unvarnished truth.

Still, if there is a non-partisan lesson to learn from all this, it’s this: The higher monkey climb, the more you see his ass; and in the Darwinian battle of presidential politics, one fact is undeniable, for Sarah Palin, the 2008 presidential election was a tree too far.


Game Change airs tomorrow Saturday March 10 at 9 pm ET/PT on HBO. Check out a clip below.