There’s something a bit surreal about watching an adaptation of events that I very distinctly remember following when they were actually happening. HBO’s Game Change, chronicling the goings on of the McCain campaign immediately before Sarah Palin was added to the ticket through election night, feels even eerier because of how much real life footage it utilizes.
Obama, Biden, Couric, Blitzer, O’Reilly, Hannity, Cooper, Gingrich, Fey, and others are present in the form of actual clips that I still vividly recalled from 2008. Spliced into the authentic events are Julianne Moore and Ed Harris as Palin and McCain, necessitating that viewers traverse the uncanny valley a bit until it stops being weird that besides the Republican ticket we’re practically watching a documentary.
We chiefly follow events through the eyes of Steve Schmidt, the senior Republican strategist who had a big hand in choosing Palin. Woody Harrelson, as might be expected, is fantastic in the role, a great center to events that come off as entirely believable.
In fact nothing in Game Change really seems like more than a slight exaggeration of what occurred—we have so much of it on record after all, and though the Palins and McCains have said the film is based on a false narrative (as if they could speak to its veracity without actually seeing it, which Palin at least refuses to do) it’s far more telling that Schmidt himself claims the film is accurate, going so far as to call it an “out-of-body experience.”
As such, there wasn’t anything in the movie I didn’t already know or couldn’t have inferred, but it was compelling nonetheless, managing to explain exactly how Palin got chosen and what the fallout would have been like for the people responsible for that decision.
I felt everything was depicted fairly, with McCain in particular coming off as entirely sympathetic, and Palin presented as woman thrust into something she was entirely unprepared for before getting really caught up in her own hype. If anyone doesn’t think that’s what she is, well, I can’t be any more forgiving to her than that.
The most “holy hell this woman came within inches of the White House” sequence might very well have been that of Palin memorizing her answers for the Vice Presidential debate in a thoroughly disturbing riff on the inspirational montage.
And Moore’s Palin watching Fey’s Palin, while bizarre, made the entire thing worth it in and of itself.
So yeah, check out Game Change, and hope that this is forever the story of the closest Sarah Palin ever came to being the world’s most powerful person.