The Rise and Fall of Stupid.
The news is no longer meant to be important. It’s just entertainment.
— Steve Schmidt, McCain-Palin senior advisor.
I don’t think much of Julianne Moore as an actress. And I despise Sarah Palin as a politician and human being. But Julianne Moore playing Sarah Palin? Priceless! In the HBO movie, GAME CHANGE, Moore gives a bravura performance as the Ditz Heard Round The World, the vice-presidential nominee in the 2008 American presidential election.
Steve Schmidt’s correct assessment of the 24/7 news cycle is why Sarah Palin became a household name at all: Entertainment. Rubbernecking car-crash entertainment. We all knew it was a bloodied and broken train wreck from the get-go – but we couldn’t turn away.
Directed by Jay Roach (no stranger to political films, with the Emmy-winning RECOUNT), GAME CHANGE focuses on a small section of the book of the same name (by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, who make a cameo as reporters during the “amniotic fluid” bit), and is unabashedly All About Sarah. It was she whom the McCain campaign tapped to effect the “game change” so desperately needed in a moribund Republican field brimmed with sour old white guys (all polls indicated that if John McCain chose anyone from the existing field – especially that haunted succubus Joe Lieberman – he would lose); it was she who was counted on to inject fresh blood into a cloying old boys’ club with her aw-shucks tits-and-ass; and it was she who would ultimately grind the McCain campaign down to a bleating loser freak show with her unbounded ignorance and dogged refusal to educate herself.
Film follows her meteoric rise and as-meteoric fall, told from the points of view of Palin’s two top aides, Operations Chief Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson) and Senior Advisor Nicolle Wallace (Sarah Paulson). Though they initially believed Palin was a “red light performer” (someone who didn’t do well in coaching, but turned on the charisma when the cameras were on), a few national interviews later, Schmidt came to the realization she “knew nothing” and that her selection as McCain’s running mate was his gravest tactical error in his hastiness to shake up the campaign – a campaign that had slipped from McCain’s grasp as soon as Barack Obama had won the Democratic nomination.
“Obama has changed the game.”
GAME CHANGE is a true American Horror Story. By electing Barack Obama in November 2008, America dodged one of the most horrifying bullets in the history of the Republic: someone even more ignorant and incurious than W. Yes, Palin would have only been VP, but also would have been – as the commentators reminded us daily – only one 72-year-old heartbeat away from the Presidency. The experience of running a campaign for a certifiable imbecile gussied up to be a figurehead was so telling on Steve Schmidt and Nicole Wallace – they were so put off by Palin’s ignorance and their own begrudging promotion of that ignorance – that they came over to the sensible side! They might not refer to themselves as Democrats, but they sure as hell ain’t Republicans no more, as their constant pusses on MSNBC attest.
Asked their opinions on the film and book, neither of them deny anything, both commenting their portrayals are commendable – even though the film fully places the blame on Schmidt’s shoulders for vetting Palin without asking her one policy question. Harrelson’s Schmidt laments this fact more than once, and is man enough to take the burden of blame. And real life Schmidt is man enough to do the same, one of his many strong points – as a human being and a sensible Republican (which is an oxymoron that just means non-Republican nowadays).
Julianne Moore – with the help of makeup, mannerisms and speech – IS Sarah Palin. Not overplaying, not satirizing, not poking fun; a full-bodied performance that captures everything we know of Palin, from her confident stump persona to her ingratiating wink, from her shrikey vocal stylings to the dropping of her g’s. Also, those blank looks she gives her advisors could have been played as ass-klown, instead, Moore chooses to mix in wonder and frustration and hurt. We would never see these actual faces from Palin, so Moore’s performance is doubly commendable.
Ed Harris is a very sympathetic, though foul-mouthed, John McCain (every second word is ‘fuck’, as in real life); Peter MacNicol and Ron Livingstone are advisors, and Jamey Sheridan, who played the hick Devil in THE STAND, is McCain’s speechwriter (it all falls into place now!).
And what would a quasi-biopic of Palin be without – Tina Fey? Palin squirms in her seat watching SNL’s Fey take her apart simply by parroting her own words. Ironic, as Palin’s own words are parroted lines to begin with.
Through excellent special effects, GAME CHANGE inserts Moore as Palin into the real life news, interview situations and stumps we’ve all seen, encapsulating everything that mattered from that 2008 campaign, from Palin’s hasty selection, stunning rollout, “inspiring” convention speech, to the “Troopergate” controversy, the disastrous Couric interview, the flip-flop Bridge to Nowhere, the Family Values hypocrisy of her daughter’s pregnancy, the elitist $150,000 wardrobe, to the memorized Biden debate, going rogue, and down to the election night wire when she argued to make a concession speech alongside John McCain. And of course, we are made privy to the scarring backstage kabuki on each of these bytes.
Schmidt realized that trying to “teach” Palin anything for the Vice Presidential debate with Joe Biden was futile (an early scene shows tutors pointing out Germany on a map to her, and trying to outline the distinctions between the Iraq and Afghanistan wars), and resorts to making her memorize a few talking points that she would pivot back to no matter the questions. In other words, parroting lines, no better than a school kid cramming for a test he knows nothing about; no better than W prepped by Carl Rove. Vindicating the horrifying fear we’ve always held that the country is run by a bunch of literal morons.
A refreshing aspect of this background look at the McCain-Palin campaign is that Schmidt and co. were well aware of the dumbass they had on their hands. When Katie Couric asks Palin which papers she reads, Schmidt rails at the TV monitor, “Name one fucking paper!” The whole room breaks out in sighs of disbelief and horror on Palin’s now-infamous reply: “All of them.” And Schmidt turns to Devil and bewails, “What have we done?” That’s never been portrayed before in such stark reality. For the sake of the campaign the advisors retained a bold front in the shadow of their pathetic figurehead, and at times it seemed like EVERYONE on the campaign must have been as mentally lethargic as Palin, for them to allow her to keep spouting such un-sense. But there are always people running things who “KNOW” what’s right and wrong. (That’s why people like Hannity and O’Reilly are unforgiveable: because they are NOT dunces, which means that the venal disinformation they promulgate is a CHOICE. They CHOOSE to be this evil and selfish and duplicitous.)
No real characterizations of any of the spouses or children – there is just too much else in this bustling movie to keep us entertained – with David Barry Gray playing Todd Palin like some nervous day-player sharing a bed with Julianne Moore pretending to be her husband. (Sarah doesn’t make it easy on him, climbing into bed with her hair up and her glasses on. Can anyone say No Chemistry?)
Sad yet funny: a gaggle of poor Down Syndrome babies play Palin’s retarded newborn son Trig. Probably the only person who exploits her Down Syndrome kid more than the parents who allowed their kids to curl up in Moore’s arms is Palin herself, who uses all her children as tools to promote her celebrity.
humanizing the inhuman
Palin is portrayed as a compassionate mother for deciding to birth Trig even though she was warned of his disability during her pregnancy. Let’s say it out loud that she didn’t choose to birth that poor kid because she’s compassionate, but because she’s an Anti-Choice fanatic (of course, she calls it “pro-life”). If she possessed a shred of human dignity, she would have aborted that kid and spared it all the pain of being Sarah Palin’s kid. The engraved command from Jesus got lost in the mail.
And isn’t it the law of averages that a nudz like Palin would eventually have pumped out a Downie? I’m surprised that her other four didn’t come out retarded. Politically incorrect – or what everyone is thinking? Five young nudzes contributing their low rent genes to the human pool.
More “humanizing” as Palin takes a call from her son in Iraq. When she hangs up, she contentedly muses, “My son is safe.” It’s meant to be a poignant moment – until you think about it. Your son just said he was going out on a mission. In Iraq. I think you need to look up the definition of ‘safe,’ nudz.
I have no sympathy for people who doggedly retain their ignorance past the point of being given the opportunity to learn. This woman birthing five kids is not a sign of her “humanity” but of her naïveté and libido. The ignorant should not be breeding! Palin has brought more ignorance into the world by raising her family under her aegis, and her underage daughter (against the tenets of her own “faith” and politics) also brought an ignorant little shit into the world, via father Levi Johnston who cannot string one sentence together. Who in this world thinks spreading these low rent genes is beneficial to the human race? Other low rent genes. All these maroon-necks should be rounded up and swept into the Pit of Sarlacc! Don’t aggrandize them for the sake they were able to breed. Even turkeys and amoeba breed.
Which brings us to:
the real reason sarah palin is loathed by sensible people
GAME CHANGE highlights not just Palin’s vast brain wasteland, but her incuriousness, the fact that she never wanted to improve herself. If Republicans and Sarah-philes think this is a hit piece, all they have to do is note where she is NOW in her world knowledge. Answer: stuck in exactly the same rut. She is a showbiz personality, not a politician or a – snort – “statesman.”
And that is why every sensible person in the world of politics (Republican, Democrat, Independent and non-voter alike) has no patience for the hockey mom with the no-sense mouth. It’s not that she is ignorant (every one of us is ignorant of many things at many points in our lives), it’s that she never sought to allay that ignorance with actual “learning.” When we see her shuffling through innumerable flash-cards, it is a cram session, not actual understanding of policies. She believed Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11, she didn’t know North and South Korea were separate countries, she thought the Queen ran Britain – and you know what, after all the training and prepping and travel and information – she STILL believes all that. Now, if you want to live in a fantasy world where Paul Revere was “makin’ sure as he was ridin’ through town to send those warning shots and bells” to “warn the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms…” that’s okay, you have the right to remain ignorant – but keep your puss out of politics! Not only that, when alerted to her egregious mistakes – she maintains she is right!
That’s why sensible people hate her. And if you feel ‘hate’ is too strong a word, how about despise, loathe, abhor [crack your thesaurus].
The media articulated the problem. Campbell Brown: “In fairness, probably most people couldn’t name a Supreme Court case – but most people are not campaigning to be vice president.” Fareed Zakaria: “It’s not that she doesn’t know the right answer – it’s that she clearly does not understand the question.” Yet the Straight Talk Express roared on into the potentially black future. (Actually, I take that back – it was definitely a “black” future – ha!)
Did Steve Schmidt really shout down Palin in that manner? In real life it’s a lot more “diplomatic” and roundabout, but I guess he had nothing to lose at that point. Schmidt starts going for the jugular around the time Palin realizes her celebrity and “goes rogue,” telling him blatantly, “I’m the one raising millions of dollars and if I’m the one they’re flockin’ to see, I’m gonna do what I want!” Her lies about Troopergate (“I’m happy I was cleared of all charges”) and husband Todd’s involvement in the secessionist Alaskan Independent Party (“He checked the wrong box”) cause Schmidt to yell at her, “You cannot say these things if they are untrue. That’s not the way we run this campaign!”
The crowd fervor at Palin’s hate-filled, racist stump speeches (“Obama pallin’ around with terrorists…”) spills into McCain’s stumps, and Schmidt advises McCain to dial back the rhetoric when they hear crowds shouting about Obama, “He’s a socialist!” “Terrorist!” and “Kill him!” Eventually culminating in a classic faceoff with that braindead redneck cunt who claims, “I read about Obama. He’s an Arab,” McCain snatching the mic back and educating her (and the crowd), “No, ma’am, he’s a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about.”
We wonder why the filmmakers have such unrequited love for this guy (“This is not the campaign I wanted to run”), whose cowardice allowed Palin’s unchecked mouth to continue to the end of the campaign. “Cowardice,” you say? Yes. No matter the contention over McCain’s military service, flying heroic missions bombing women and children in Viet Nam, or his POW record and alleged torture, the facts during this campaign speak for themselves. When asked by Schmidt to step in and put the brakes on Palin he declines, “Not gonna happen, Stevie boy. She might go after me.” War Hero.
McCain watches Obama newscasts with growing humility and awe. Every time we see snippets of Obama, it is heady, exhilarating, tear-jerking. How could the Republicans compete by putting up a parrot that they were teaching lines, against this constitutional law professor? And to then put the parrot up to denigrate the law professor for being a “community organizer” as if that was a bad thing? (And isn’t that one of the strangest elements of the McCain Campaign’s final legs – that it seemed like Obama was running against Palin?) We remember that time in our veins, when Obama’s intelligence contrasted the outgoing president’s idiocy, and how his eloquence contrasted with the stuttering venality of the old guy with the tits-and-ass sidekick. In other words, the rest of the book Game Change is just waiting to explode onscreen…
Tina Brown (The Daily Beast): “The real revelation in GAME CHANGE: Campaigns turn our politicians into lunatics.”
Luckily, the campaign did nothing to affect Sarah Palin. She was already a lunatic.