Over the weekend, HBO premiered Game Change, a movie based on the book of the same name by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, which begins in 2008 at the decision to have Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running-mate, and ends on election day. Did you watch it? What did you think? I’ll tell you what I thought, and then you tell me what you thought. I thought it was mostly sad and unnecessary. The story of choosing a woman who didn’t know anything about anything to be second in line for President of America, and the outcome and fallout of that decision, is absolutely an interesting narrative. No doubt. I loved that story when it happened three years ago. But the problem with Game Change, and Julianne Moore doing her best Sarah Palin impression, is that the back-story served to humanize Sarah Palin so much that, as a viewer, I thought, “Why are you still picking on this poor, dumb mother of five whose life got destroyed?”
For those of you who did not watch it, the story arc was this: Sarah Palin is chosen as John McCain’s running-mate and she is excited; Sarah Palin does poorly in interviews because she doesn’t know anything and the world is against her and her family is being attacked and she is depressed and regrets her decision to run and wants to go back to Alaska; Sarah Palin begins to do better in interviews and debates after being given talking points to memorize and becomes a superstar and basically says F Alaska and F everybody else because she’s the star now. By the end she’s like, “John McCain’s a virgin. Who can’t. Drive”, basically. And it wouldn’t be a bad movie if it were fictional, or if Sarah Palin still seemed like something we should be concerned about.
But the problem is that now, in 2012, we understand that Sarah Palin, retired governor of Alaska and star of a reality show that no one watched, is a joke. Although there were rumors that she would throw her fancy hat into the 2012 presidential race ring, she did not, and even if she did — is there anyone out there who really still sees her as a legitimate threat? Certainly there will be egg on my face if she comes back and destroys America in 2016, but by now that doesn’t seem like it should be a real concern. So what we’re left with is the story of a woman who didn’t ask to be Vice President, and who was too stupid to know how stupid she was, being torn apart by men who were using her to grab votes, interspersed with re-shot footage of (very entertaining) interviews we’ve all already seen.
The story of how those in charge of John McCain’s campaign attempted to coverup her incompetence was interesting, but it was very hard to discern what was based on reality and what was just an amped-up Hollywood version of the maybe-truth. Like when you read a story by Dave Sedaris and you think, “Well, the dialogue is what is making this story from Dave Sedaris’s childhood funny, but how could he possibly remember the dialogue from his childhood?” Not very convincing. It’s fine when Dave Sedaris does it because you’re not reading his stories to get the FACTS, necessarily, but when all a movie has to offer is the “behind the scenes facts” of a story we all know so much about already, and then those “behind the scenes facts” are more like “behind the scenes ‘facts'” with “facts” in HEAVY quotations, you have to think, like, what’s even the point of it all? It all seemed like a weird parody of what we already had to assume was happening anyway, and I’m not sure who asked for that parody or why.
SPOILER ALERT, but the movie ended with John McCain’s resignation speech, and his campaign advisors watching from the crowd. They’re reflecting on the mess that was Sarah Palin, when one remarks to the other that at least everyone will forget about her in two weeks, just as the crowd begins an overwhelming “SARAH! SARAH! SARAH!” chant. It ends on a scary “we’ve created a monster” vibe, which is actually a VERY GOOD vibe to end on, and I really liked it, except for how we live in 2012 like I already stated and actually nobody cares about that monster anymore? Again, it would have been better if it were fictional. We could have been left to imagine this woman rising in the ranks again and destroying the world, and it would have been the faults of these people who gave her her completely undeserved momentum because of their own desire to win. It also would have been better if it ended with something that seemed to warn about the nature of political figures as celebrities in general. Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuttttttttttttttt, it isn’t fictional, and that’s not what happened, and it was all very specific to Sarah Palin. So, again — who cares?
The movie did a very good job of showing how Sarah Palin was manipulated, and how dumb she was, and how she would have been perfectly fine to be left alone in Alaska. And it did a very good job of making me feel bad for Sarah Palin because people are still making movies about how dumb she is, even though she is no longer a threat to those people. And that’s it? I don’t know. It was fun to watch those interviews she gave again? It was fun to relive the election of Barack Obama? I do know that Sarah Palin is, for now, still a public figure, and that what she says on Fox talk shows DOES influence people, but those people are not going to be the people watching and believing and having their opinions changed by this movie. If those people happen to see this movie, I would bet that they will only feel sympathetic for Palin and their distrust of the “liberal media” will only increase. Soooo. Why make this movie?
WHAT DID YOU GUYS THINK?