Game Change

I could hate HBO for making me feel any sympathy for a vicious campaign weasel like Steve Schmidt. Still, I can hardly blame the network for giving me exactly the sort of program I pay them for. It hits two of the themes HBO programmers love to death: social torture porn (Larry David, Eastbound and Down, Life’s too short) and true stories of capable people fighting to manage a situation that keeps mounting over their head (Too Big to Fail).

Around the half hour mark Julianne Moore gets her mojo back and it turns into a much more entertaining Frankenstein story. In one scene that defines this half of the movie Woody Harrelson as Schmidt sits down with Ed Harris and begs the campaign’s front man to get her in line. No can do, Ed says. “She might turn on me”.

A Hollywood studio will film the Obama portion of Game Change in five or six years. On the other hand Sarah Palin’s book has shut and this one-hour TV movie is all the coda she deserves.

46 replies
  1. 1
    CarolDuhart2 says:

    Obama’s got enough stuff he’s done and written for a miniseries or a LOTR Triple Play.

    Will those of us without HBO (I refuse to pay for a channel I probably would watch once a year) get to see Game Change? In any format?

    The whole story behind Game Change stuns me, and I still don’t think we got the whole story. Why would McCain risk so much for Sarah, when just about any other Republican woman would have at least not embarrassed him so? I think he was thinking with his little head on this one, and is till trying to justify that.

  2. 2
    Montysano says:

    I thought Game Change was quite good. Wherever one stands politically, it’s a helluva story. Juliane Moore was great, as always, as was Woody Harrelson.

    Seeing Palin go into an almost catatonic shut-down mode during debate prep was particularly chilling. I’m guessing that this was based on the many interviews that the Game Change authors conducted, so I’m hoping it’s somewhat factual. Otherwise, it’s highly sensationalistic and should have been left out.

  3. 3
    JPL says:

    I don’t have cable but earlier I spoke with a friend who watched it. She was not sympathetic because she felt it was because of Sarah’s narcissism, she accepted the role. Let’s remember her strutting across the stage with Levy and Bristol.

  4. 4
    virginia says:

    Were I McCain or Schmidt this morning, had I bothered to watch the movie, I would be feeling damn near suicidal — again. What an epic fuck-up for the campaign. Let’s indeed hope the book is closed on Sarah Palin, a truly scary and unstable person.

    Julianne Moore was sensational. Schmidt wishes he were half as likable and charismatic as Woody Harrelson. Ed Harris, a fine actor, disappointed. He conveyed little of the essence of McCain. I wasn’t expecting a full on impersonation but Harris gave a dead and timid performance. Perhaps a veiled comment on the campaign itself and the person headlining it.

  5. 5
    Tom says:

    It’s only an hour long?

  6. 6
    malraux says:

    @CarolDuhart2: I suspect it’ll show up in iTunes at some point. But HBO is really against online streaming services for some reason, so it’ll never show up in netflix instant, for example. If/when they do a dvd release, then it’ll show up in netflix dvds.

  7. 7
    JPL says:

    TPM’s livewire has McCain’s comments about the film

    , John McCain said that he did not watch the film. ………………………………………………McCain also said the film has him cursing more than he actually does. I have a bigger vocabulary than that, he said.

    My analysis McCain is that since he didn’t watch the film, he has ESP. Even if he read the book, he would not know what was left in the movie.

  8. 8
    AA+ Bonds says:

    Actually, I think the movie qualifies as “liberal porn”, which is why so many liberals can’t help but like it even though it was practically ghostwritten by John McCain’s 2008 White Supremacist Jambo-roo

  9. 9
    AA+ Bonds says:

    @virginia:

    Were I McCain or Schmidt this morning, had I bothered to watch the movie, I would be feeling damn near suicidal—again

    Are you kidding; the entire property functions as white-out applied to Schmidt’s resume, dolloped out eagerly by Schmidt himself

    Sit a PR man down with Mark fucking Halperin of all milquetoast faux-edge “objective” reporters, and what do you think comes out of that magic machine when all that garbage goes in

  10. 10
    AA+ Bonds says:

    “Senior political analyst” for TIME Magazine(!) sits down with two members of McCain’s campaign staff whose entire career is based on telling “senior political analysts” what to say . . . and it turns out . . . the person in the VP slot sunk the whole thing!

    Don’t look at those poll numbers! ‘We wuz framed!’

  11. 11
    EriktheRed says:

    I’m just interested in seeing the scene where Caribou Barbie is watching herself get lambasted on SNL. Some say it’s supposed to bring sympathy for her character, but I’m hoping to feel more of that sweet schadenfreude.

  12. 12
    trollhattan says:

    Enjoyed it and thought the performances were good to excellent. Julianne Moore pulled it off, which I couldn’t envision prior to watching, despite the trailers. As the gajillion Iraq war movies demonstrate, it’s hard to capture contemporary issues as drama/entertainment. And Sarah(tm) has had so much media time it took an exceptional effort (on their part, not mine) not to continually compare the actor with the person portrayed

  13. 13
    Mike in NC says:

    @virginia:

    Let’s indeed hope the book is closed on Sarah Palin, a truly scary and unstable person.

    There’s little doubt that Sarah Palin will show up in Tampa for the GOP convention and expect to be treated like a rock star. I don’t think she’ll be disappointed, either. Might squeeze in a signing for the inevitable new book, also, too!

  14. 14
    trollhattan says:

    @Mike in NC:

    If she had the nerve to title it “Grifters Gotta Grift” hell, I think I’d buy it.

  15. 15
    AA+ Bonds says:

    How the fuck do any of you feel sympathy for Sarah Palin

    She continues to actively destroy the stability of American society, spreading bigotry every day to her coterie of followers

    She is repulsive and can pay for sycophants to tell her that she is not; she can pay for doctor after doctor to explore her inner workings and analyze her deep-seated longings

    She does not need weepy liberals to provide any of that . . . but I think maybe for some of them it is a feeling that if you understand her enough, if you feel for her enough, then she/JulianneMoore/TinaFey will let you cum on her tits.

    She’s so . . . so damaged, and, like . . . I know you just want to . . . help her, and punish her, and help her at. . . the same time . . .

  16. 16
    AA+ Bonds says:

    @virginia:

    Let’s indeed hope the book is closed on ________, a truly scary and unstable person.

    This is one of those neat human biases where if you blank out the name you start filling in all these interesting examples where an entire country full of people said that phrase or something like it

  17. 17
    The Tragically Flip says:

    I think the movie intended to put the best spin on Schmitt, but even so he comes off as reprehensible. He’s portrayed as thrilled to have Palin simply memorize lines instead of actually knowing anything in order to prepare for her debate with Biden. He proudly calls her the “best actor in American politics” as some kind of virtue. When it’s time to cheer her up, he does so by reminding her Reagan was a moron too, and so it must be ok that a Vice-Presidential candidate (and sitting Governor) doesn’t know why there are two Koreas or what the Fed is.

    I really could not care less who blew the vetting process on Palin in the campaign. If Schmitt thinks that was the big failing to account for, he’s really missed the point. More, I think these cynical fucks were desperate enough to pick her even if they knew how bad she was.

    Also, this was a great comment from the other thread.

  18. 18
    Mino says:

    Can we expect to see Schmidt running Romney’s fall campaign? Wouldn’t surprise me a bit.

  19. 19
    geg6 says:

    Boy, AA+ Bonds is on a jihad against this film, isn’t he?

    One correction, Tim. The film is two hours long, not one.

    That said, my John and I watched. Julianne Moore and Woody Harrelson are just fantastic. My only real complaint is that they didn’t hammer McCain and put too much of the responsibilty for the fiasco of Caribou Barbie on the staff. He was the candidate and, ultimately, he was responsible for putting that crazy idiot one breath and one election away from the nuclear football. I have nothing but disdain for the man and his judgment, if for that alone (though there are plenty of other reasons to question his judgment). I thought the film was fair and the only ounce of sympathy I had for Sarah throughout was the scene where she watches Tina Fey doing her on SNL. Even for Sarah, that had to hurt. But my sympathy was short lived, due to her being such an awful person (and, I believe, mentally ill) for the rest of the film. I recommend it. I enjoyed it a lot more than “Recount,” which I found too painful to watch all in one sitting. Took me about three days to get all the way through that one.

  20. 20
    trollhattan says:

    We’re left to draw our own conclusions on how Sarah(tm) responded to Tina’s playing Sarah(tm)–my takeaway was she was simultaneously repelled and attracted, that she was in part willing to take the hit to get the attention.

    My defense, if you will, is that Sarah(tm) went on SNL herself. Moore’s portrayal left enough wiggle room, I think, for either interpretation.

    And the close, when she wasn’t allowed to speak after McCain but reveled in the “Sarah(tm)” chants from the crowd was dead perfect. She immediately saw a door opening wide.

  21. 21
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @AA+ Bonds:

    You know, the rest of us can distinguish between “good performance by an actress” and “support for the actual person being portrayed.”

    Also,

    if you feel for her enough, then she/JulianneMoore/TinaFey will let you cum on her tits.

    Yeah, you can just fuck off right now, you stupid little shit. I’m sick of your demented screaming ruining every thread you show up in.

  22. 22
    Sly says:

    @AA+ Bonds:

    Are you kidding; the entire property functions as white-out applied to Schmidt’s resume, dolloped out eagerly by Schmidt himself

    Even if you accept the facts presented by Game Change at face value, its hard to come away from the movie without seeing Schmidt’s role as anything less than the one of the biggest derelictions of duty in modern political history.

    One could forgive Sarah Palin for her ignorance. Even her willful ignorance. One could even forgive her for her pettiness. A lot of people are like Sarah Palin. But a lot of people aren’t nominated by a major political party to be Vice President of the United States.

    Schmidt and co. did not care that she was both intellectually and temperamentally unsuited for the task of national governance, because they never bothered to check. When they found out, they decided to dress her up as best they could in order to minimize the damage. Just give her some lines to memorize, and if someone asks her a question to which she does not know the answer just have her change the subject.

    Their job wasn’t to get a capable candidate elected, but to fool as many people as possible into believing an incapable candidate was right for the job. And they did this under a banner that read Country First.

  23. 23
    AA+ Bonds says:

    @Spaghetti Lee:

    And I believe we have breakthrough

  24. 24
    AA+ Bonds says:

    @Sly:

    Even if you accept the facts presented by Game Change at face value, its hard to come away from the movie without seeing Schmidt’s role as anything less than

    Um

    In one scene that defines this half of the movie Woody Harrelson as Schmidt sits down with Ed Harris and begs the campaign’s front man to get her in line. No can do, Ed says. “She might turn on me”.

    ‘That screeching harridan! Heavens to Betsy, you know how they get! Nothing to be done!’

  25. 25
    AA+ Bonds says:

    The real story of McCain 2008 is that your two main sources for this jumbled mess jumped on a sinking Spanish galleon and started throwing the treasure overboard so they could go diving for it later

    But no, by all means, allow two Republican PR shills to write the history on this campaign, it’s not like we ever want to remember things or learn from them

  26. 26
    Jay C says:

    @EriktheRed, @geg6, @trollhattan:

    Charles Pierce, as he usually does, has the last and best word on the Palin/Fey scene:

    (The movie’s mind-bending meta moments come when we see Moore playing Sarah Palin watching Tina Fey playing Sarah Palin. At these points in the film you wonder quite seriously whether Palin is herself a real person anymore, or just a collection of people playing Sarah Palin, including herself.)

  27. 27
    JGabriel says:

    CarolDuhart2:

    Will those of us without HBO (I refuse to pay for a channel I probably would watch once a year) get to see Game Change? In any format?

    HBO released Recount on DVD, so one assumes they’ll eventually do the same for Game Change.

    .

  28. 28
    The Tragically Flip says:

    @AA+ Bonds:

    But no, by all means, allow two Republican PR shills to write the history on this campaign, it’s not like we ever want to remember things or learn from them

    Unless it turns out that Camp McCain kept a series of Nixonish tape recordings of all their meetings, the only look inside the campaign we’re ever going to get are people with agendas and interests in spinning what went on. There are no disinterested witnesses who could provide the backstory.

    Considering that multiple people in this thread and the previous one have commented on and complained about the movie being too kind to Schmitt, I really don’t understand what your point is in haranguing everyone about this as if you’re the only aware of the movie’s biases.

  29. 29
    JGabriel says:

    AA+ Bonds:

    … by all means, allow two Republican PR shills to write the history on this campaign, it’s not like we ever want to remember things or learn from them

    Obviously that’s a fair criticism. Despite that, Schmidt does not come across as someone trying to avoid blame. Schmidt’s role in choosing Palin is a critical motif in the film, it’s clear that he regrets it by the end, and there’s no effort to portray him as anything other than one of the people responsible for foisting Palin into the national spotlight.

    .

  30. 30
    Kolohe says:

    AA+ Bonds is right, this film (and the corresponding parts of the book) were almost entirely sourced from Schmidt and Wallace, and that is obvious from the point of view characters in the movie. Even if it does demonstrate that Schmidt actually fracked up big time, it’s hardly surprising; how many other people in the that line of work claim their biggest frack ups as their biggest accomplishments, or always manage to fail upwards, or both?

  31. 31
    Daaling says:

    Can this please be the last post on some made for cable movie about some idiot has been beauty queen turned politician.

    Please!

  32. 32
    rikyrah says:

    of all of them, Schmidt is the only one who has come close to apologizing to this country.

    Senator Country Last still hasn’t.

  33. 33
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @malraux:

    With Recount there was only about a three-month lag from HBO premiere to DVD release. If they follow a similar schedule for Game Change, I think we can expect to see it on Target’s shelves by mid-June.

  34. 34
    Splitting Image says:

    @CarolDuhart2:

    The whole story behind Game Change stuns me, and I still don’t think we got the whole story. Why would McCain risk so much for Sarah, when just about any other Republican woman would have at least not embarrassed him so? I think he was thinking with his little head on this one, and is till trying to justify that.

    My understanding at the time was that McCain’s first choice was Joe Lieberman, and his second was Tom Ridge. Both were nixed by his advisors because Lieberman and Ridge are both pro-choice. McCain then basically threw up his hands and said “Fine. Somebody name a VP who would be acceptable.”

    Somebody then mentioned Sarah Palin. The extent of Schmidt’s perfidy depends on whether or not he was that person. When McCain signed off on the pick, he basically knew nothing about her except for the fact that a few people on his staff knew who she was and thought picking her was a good idea.

    In other words, McCain probably acted even worse than you were thinking. He wasn’t concerned about picking a woman per se. He simply delegated his responsibility to someone else and made no attempt (besides a 15-minute interview) to make sure that they were handling it well. If this is what actually happened, I think that it makes McCain worse by far than Palin or Schmidt. They were third-rate employees working for a fourth-rate boss.

  35. 35
    Kolohe says:

    The thing is, at the time, Palin wasn’t that crazy a pick. She was a governor – yeah from a small state, but so have been a few other successful people. She was immensely popular in her home state. She *did* take on the Republican establishment and their crony oil interests, and won. She *didn’t* perform badly in one on one interviews with 60 minutes and Charlie Rose on that same subject.

    It turned out, she was, like W. Bush, intellectually incurious and lazy, and, compared to W. Bush, was even more regular old lazy. But able to tap a market of people that hate people that hate Palin. And now is set for life.

  36. 36
    Joey Maloney says:

    @CarolDuhart2:

    Will those of us without HBO (I refuse to pay for a channel I probably would watch once a year) get to see Game Change? In any format?

    Google “Game Change torrent”. I’m sure it’s already available.

  37. 37
    John says:

    I utterly fail to understand the idea that this is somehow a whitewash in which Schmidt passes the buck to Palin. Saying that Palin was awful and should have been allowed nowhere near the presidency makes Schmidt look terrible, and the movie doesn’t hide this. The whole point is that Schmidt (and, to a lesser extent, McCain) sells his soul and his principles to win, and irresponsibly chooses a VP who is in no way qualified.

    I suppose it makes Schmidt look like an ordinary human being who ended up seeing Palin for what she really was. But are we really objecting to that? Does that actually seem so unlikely? The very fact that, unlike a lot of professional conservatives (Matt Continetti comes to mind), he was willing to risk his future career in Republican politics by revealing how awful Sarah Palin was in itself suggests that this is true.

    I’d further add that Schmidt and Wallace’s version of events, at least as relayed by Halperin and Heilemann, is totally consistent with what we saw in public. The only other version we’ve heard is that of Palin apologists, which relies on nonsense like Katie Couric being out to get Palin.

  38. 38
    Rita R. says:

    @John:

    I’d further add that Schmidt and Wallace’s version of events, at least as relayed by Halperin and Heilemann, is totally consistent with what we saw in public. The only other version we’ve heard is that of Palin apologists, which relies on nonsense like Katie Couric being out to get Palin.

    On Morning Joe either last week or the week before, Halperin and Heilemann were asked how viewers (and readers) can know that what they presented was an accurate portrayal of what happened and not just a slanted version from people with an agenda. And they said that it’s because the accounts they got were verified by people who were and still are close to Palin and support her, who verified that the story they’d gotten was pretty much how it went down.

  39. 39
    virginia says:

    Yipes! I guess I got a ball rolling with comments that suggested that Schmidt proved himself to be both incompetent and reckless in pushing for Palin. There’s always room for disagreement, natch, but at my house that’s my story and I’m sticking to it — If I were SS, I’d be covered in mortification — again. As in mortification 24/7 — 365.

    Also, to whomever commented on the fill in the blank scary and unstable comment — I’m perfectly capable of being scary and heaven knows I’m not the most stable. Difference is I don’t run around jonesing for mass adoration and looking to be VPOTUS. So, yeah, in my feeble mind, the women is indeed scary and unstable. And, in this nutso environment we live in, could very well come roaring back.

  40. 40

    I don’t understand the impatience and dismissive attitude towards Sarah Palin. Despite the understandable desire for her to go away, it’s going to take further effort. That’s because she IS the current GOP, every dolled-up Dominionist inch of her.

    Raging Xantian xenophobes are what the Republicans are now. Until they have been purged from public life, we have to be alert and vigilant.

  41. 41
    Jimbo316 says:

    @Montysano: There’s all kinds of backpedaling on how realistic this story is, as you would totally predict, given the characters and the importance of he story. I actually liked it as a story (not necessarily as a record of the campaign, which it never aspired to be) and I thought Woody Harrelson gave one of his best performances. Julianne Moore always does great performances so no surprises there though it really is hard to do Palin’s accent and she really didn’t manage that most of the time (it’s rural Idaho, which Palin has since exaggerated).

  42. 42
    kamalokitty says:

    I know I’m late to the party. I hated this movie. Hated. It. God help us all if any of this were based on fact. If it were, we are fucked. I blame Schmidt. He wanted to win and granted that was his job. But he (and his henchwoman, Wallace) had a job to do and that was to win. At all costs. They would have taken the win with that dumbass on the ticket. Don’t kid yourselves. They would have sold out the nation for a fucking win, with an unstable, egotistical, emptyheaded, ignorant, bullshitting, freakshow, moneygrubbing, dumbass grifter as #2.

  43. 43
    samara morgan says:

    @kamalokitty: if Palin had gone along with Schmidts grooming, we would have been fucked.
    As it is, she’s done. She cant come back from this.
    want proof?
    no conservative site has even mentioned it.
    when Game Change is done on HBO they will sell it to Oxygen and Lifetime. cant stop the signal.
    Game Change is Palin’s popular legacy in american history. She will never overcome it.

    but this is how they roll. how do you think George “Gog-Magog” Bush got to be president? His handlers, once of which was Steve Schmidt himself, made sure he never said the really crazipants WEC stuff in public.
    if Schmidt should apolo for anything, its for successfully foisting Bush on an unsuspecting citizenry.

  44. 44
    samara morgan says:

    @Jimbo316: where is the backpedalling? not from Schmidt or Wallace. And no conservative pundit will even admit to watching it.
    profound lack of whinage yest.

  45. 45
    samara morgan says:

    @rikyrah: shouldnt Schmidt apolo for George “Gog-Magog” Bush too?
    Schmidt was one of Bush’s handlers and made sure the american public never saw the crazipants WEC stuff.
    Schmidt was just more successful with grooming Bush– Palin came to believe her own mythology and refused to be groomed.

    the screen play i would have written would have featured the debate question Gwen Eifel asked Palin. What is your Achilles heel? Palin used one of Schmidts “pivots” tin response, but her Achilles heel was hubris. Palin came to believe that because she was more popular than McCain, that she should direct the campaign.
    The pride that goeth before the fall.

    On the Right………losing is the only real sin.
    you guys should get that by now.

  46. 46
    samara morgan says:

    latimes

    In 2008, Sarah Palin’s life experience was far closer to that of the people than to the professionals. While the pros were appalled that she had no command of the facts, the folks out on the rope lines recognized someone who had come from among them. They saw an attractive mother of five, beset by insiders and media elites, who was battling back and expressing gut feelings that were the same as theirs.
    __
    That appeal was what made Palin an overnight political phenomenon. As the movie shows, Palin understood the power of her persona and came to believe she could save McCain’s campaign by ignoring Schmidt and the political experts. She may well have believed herself to be a Ronald Reagan-like figure for whom destiny had greatness in store.

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