Saturday night was the premiere of HBO’s highly publicized “Game Change,” based on the book about the the 2008 presidential campaign. The filmmakers decided to concentrate not on the Hillary-Obama-Edwards story lines but rather focus their adaptation on the McCain-Palin dynamic, more specifically the way Palin morphed from relative obscurity to national sensation.
So much has been written about the film, and both McCain and Palin have blasted the filmmakers for painting a wildly inaccurate picture of what really happened.
Methinks they doth protest too much.
Sure, screenwriters take dramatic liberties. I’m not entirely convinced that McCain curses a lot, for example, nor would we have any way of knowing whether Palin curled up in a ball on the floor of her hotel room one night.
But what rang true for me were the intricacies of the political process – the same process that had me hooked from the opening scene of “The Ides of March.” I love watching how the handlers, the advisers, the strategists shape campaigns, choose running mates, tell candidates what to say and what not to say, figure out how to attack the other guy, all of it. “Game Change” delivered on that score. It also did a great job of weaving in the media covering the campaign – from Katie Couric to the gang at CNN.
As for Julianne Moore’s portrayal of Palin, there were moments when I was distracted by her accent. She looked uncannily like Palin and took great pains to get the mangled syntax right. But I didn’t feel as if I were watching the former Alaska governor; I felt as if I were watching an actress playing her. Still, it’s nearly impossible to take on the role of a real-life person, particularly one with such a vivid image, so Moore deserves all the awards that are certain to come her way at Emmy time.
Mostly what struck me is the shallow way we pick leaders in this country. Presidential candidates seek out running mates that will help the ticket, plain and simple, in order to win elections. I’m still trying to get over Dan Quayle.
Moving on to Sunday night, I tuned in to ESPN’s documentary about Magic Johnson, “The Announcement.”
I didn’t move to SoCal until 2001, so I wasn’t in L.A. for Magic Madness and didn’t follow the Lakers. That said, it would have been hard to miss the Magic phenomenon. I was as stunned as everyone else watching his press conference and hearing him say he was HIV positive. I had lost a dear friend to AIDS in the ’80s and the very name of the virus frightened me.
What I didn’t get at the time was the amazing spirit of Johnson. In the doc, he admits that he went through a depression after his diagnosis and forced retirement – who wouldn’t? – but thanks to an assist from Pat Riley and his own indomitable will, he worked his way back into the game and into a whole new set of achievements.
I found the doc very moving; the scene where Johnson goes to talk to the kids and comforts the little girl who’s crying made me cry. And the whole subplot with Karl Malone was very compelling.
I expected the film to be sort of a puff piece, but there was genuine emotion as well as candor from those who spoke on camera. I learned a lot – not the least of which is what a really nice guy Magic Johnson seems to be.