“Game Change” subtly horrifying slice of television

The story of Sarah Palin’s curious ascendency and handling of her 2008 nomination as Republican vice-presidential office, “Game Change” is curious in that the success of its protagonist marks the potential crash-and-burn of Western society. The film’s moments of triumph are our potential moments of despair. It diminishes credibility for a vice-presidential office, one of the the most important positions in the world, to the ability to memorize note-cards and smile for cameras. In the world of “Game Change”, viability for political office is as simple as satisfying cosmetic needs of the right demographics. The world of “Game Change” is a scary world indeed. The world of “Game Change” is our world.

Not to say, of course, that commonplace exaggerations and dramatic punching-up haven’t taken place here.  They have. Julianne Moore’s iteration of Palin, while tonally removed from Tina Fey’s brilliant “Saturday Night Live” impersonation, emulates her physical and verbal traits just as well. Moore nails Palin’s various quirks — the loose consonants, stubby chin, droopy speech, et cetera. For all of the greats she’s worked with — Altman, PTA, Spielberg, Cuaron — director Jay Roach just may have given Moore her juiciest role yet.

The supporting cast’s real-life-imitations are no less impressive. I’d have thought Ed Harris, with his stern features and authoritative voice, wouldn’t be the wisest choice to play John McCain. Oddly enough, he’s a perfect choice. Diminished to something of a background role, McCain mainly serves to be slowly overtaken by his sneering, snarling advisors. Leading this pack is Woody Harrelson as Steve Schmidt, who funnily enough may be the closest thing to a reasonable main-character.

The film’s helmer, Jay Roach, is the helmer of fare varying from the “Austin Powers” trilogy to the similarly-political HBO fare, “Recount”. His touch as director is mostly invisible, which is to say, an efficient one. Particularly effective was his subtle building of dread as Palin barrels closer towards the final election, although it’s unclear how much of that is Roach’s touch and how much is our prior knowledge of the circumstances.

“Game Change” is a solid slice of politically-charged television, one which effectively shows how potential chaos and disorder can come in the least assuming packages. It’s a subtly scathing critique of political irresponsibility, with a wonderful performance by Julianne Moore at its passionate, grim center. The effect of the film is akin to a bullet whizzing inches away from your ear….if that sounds like your kind of thing. B+


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