Over the weekend, HBO premiered Game Change, a movie based on the book of the same name by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, which begins in 2008 at the decision to have Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running-mate, and ends on election day. Did you watch it? What did you think? I’ll tell you what I thought, and then you tell me what you thought. I thought it was mostly sad and unnecessary. The story of choosing a woman who didn’t know anything about anything to be second in line for President of America, and the outcome and fallout of that decision, is absolutely an interesting narrative. No doubt. I loved that story when it happened three years ago. But the problem with Game Change, and Julianne Moore doing her best Sarah Palin impression, is that the back-story served to humanize Sarah Palin so much that, as a viewer, I thought, “Why are you still picking on this poor, dumb mother of five whose life got destroyed?” 

For those of you who did not watch it, the story arc was this: Sarah Palin is chosen as John McCain’s running-mate and she is excited; Sarah Palin does poorly in interviews because she doesn’t know anything and the world is against her and her family is being attacked and she is depressed and regrets her decision to run and wants to go back to Alaska; Sarah Palin begins to do better in interviews and debates after being given talking points to memorize and becomes a superstar and basically says F Alaska and F everybody else because she’s the star now. By the end she’s like, “John McCain’s a virgin. Who can’t. Drive”, basically. And it wouldn’t be a bad movie if it were fictional, or if Sarah Palin still seemed like something we should be concerned about.

But the problem is that now, in 2012, we understand that Sarah Palin, retired governor of Alaska and star of a reality show that no one watched, is a joke. Although there were rumors that she would throw her fancy hat into the 2012 presidential race ring, she did not, and even if she did — is there anyone out there who really still sees her as a legitimate threat? Certainly there will be egg on my face if she comes back and destroys America in 2016, but by now that doesn’t seem like it should be a real concern. So what we’re left with is the story of a woman who didn’t ask to be Vice President, and who was too stupid to know how stupid she was, being torn apart by men who were using her to grab votes, interspersed with re-shot footage of (very entertaining) interviews we’ve all already seen.

The story of how those in charge of John McCain’s campaign attempted to coverup her incompetence was interesting, but it was very hard to discern what was based on reality and what was just an amped-up Hollywood version of the maybe-truth. Like when you read a story by Dave Sedaris and you think, “Well, the dialogue is what is making this story from Dave Sedaris’s childhood funny, but how could he possibly remember the dialogue from his childhood?” Not very convincing. It’s fine when Dave Sedaris does it because you’re not reading his stories to get the FACTS, necessarily, but when all a movie has to offer is the “behind the scenes facts” of a story we all know so much about already, and then those “behind the scenes facts” are more like “behind the scenes ‘facts’” with “facts” in HEAVY quotations, you have to think, like, what’s even the point of it all? It all seemed like a weird parody of what we already had to assume was happening anyway, and I’m not sure who asked for that parody or why.

SPOILER ALERT, but the movie ended with John McCain’s resignation speech, and his campaign advisors watching from the crowd. They’re reflecting on the mess that was Sarah Palin, when one remarks to the other that at least everyone will forget about her in two weeks, just as the crowd begins an overwhelming “SARAH! SARAH! SARAH!” chant. It ends on a scary “we’ve created a monster” vibe, which is actually a VERY GOOD vibe to end on, and I really liked it, except for how we live in 2012 like I already stated and actually nobody cares about that monster anymore? Again, it would have been better if it were fictional. We could have been left to imagine this woman rising in the ranks again and destroying the world, and it would have been the faults of these people who gave her her completely undeserved momentum because of their own desire to win. It also would have been better if it ended with something that seemed to warn about the nature of political figures as celebrities in general. Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuttttttttttttttt, it isn’t fictional, and that’s not what happened, and it was all very specific to Sarah Palin. So, again — who cares?

The movie did a very good job of showing how Sarah Palin was manipulated, and how dumb she was, and how she would have been perfectly fine to be left alone in Alaska. And it did a very good job of making me feel bad for Sarah Palin because people are still making movies about how dumb she is, even though she is no longer a threat to those people. And that’s it? I don’t know. It was fun to watch those interviews she gave again? It was fun to relive the election of Barack Obama? I do know that Sarah Palin is, for now, still a public figure, and that what she says on Fox talk shows DOES influence people, but those people are not going to be the people watching and believing and having their opinions changed by this movie. If those people happen to see this movie, I would bet that they will only feel sympathetic for Palin and their distrust of the “liberal media” will only increase. Soooo. Why make this movie?


Comments (40)
  1. She’s pretty?

  2. tl;dw

    (too lame, didn’t watch)

  3. wow, i totally thought that was really mccain and palin until i looked for more than 2 seconds.

  4. Half of the movie was the actors watching SNL and CNN. Completely unnecessary movie but it was fun to remember how dumb she is.

  5. I have to skip this one. I had enough of her 4 years ago and she’s still in the news too much. I hear there is one scene where she cries, but hopefully someone will just make a gif so I don’t even have to watch a youtube clip.

  6. “Why make this movie?”

    Because no one wants to watch a movie about the first black president and how he works really hard yet people still shit all over him, so much so that he questions if he ever really wanted to be president in the first place? I guess?

  7. Thank you, Sarah . I SO need lessons from you on how to be cool. Tell me the part about your view from Russia again? #cluelesschange

  8. Outraged exclamation. Breathless accusation of “bias”. Expression of doubt about your patriotism. Ad hominem attack, made up statistic, baseless accusation. Link to another post where you contradict yourself here. Obnoxious, patronizing apology for destroying your credibility as a journalist.

  9. I really need to stop reading after it says SPOILER ALERT.

  10. I could watch a movie where Ed Harris strokes Sarah Plain’s ego, but I’d much rather watch this gif where Ed Harris strokes a giant green picture of Jim Carrey.

  11. i didn’t watch it because

    a) she annoys me
    b) this is the emmy/golden globe-grabbing equivalent of VH1′s “i love the _0′s”
    c) i already know how it ends
    d) all of the above

  12. Why write this book? Because people like gossipy gossip. Ugh.

  13. I thought it was pretty good. I particularity liked how every other word out of John McCain’s mouth in it is fuck. Truly an ex navy man.

  14. I despise Sarah Palin, but I don’t think “stupid” is the right word to describe her. It’s true she’s not interested in knowing factual information and has a surprising lack of knowledge of things one would expect her to know as a U.S. Governor, she seemed to have learned what she needed to know to be governor of Alaska, which is the job she actually wanted.

    If it’s true that she’s the person who coined the term “death panels” and also turned Obama’s description of people in rural towns as “clinging to their guns and Jesus”, both which had huge political impact, then she definitely has a knack for certain things. Just sayin’.

    • Well, “death panels” was either a flat-out lie or a wild misunderstanding of what was being proposed


      so…either really shitty or stupid, take your pick.

      “Clinging to guns and Jesus” was pretty close to what Obama was actually quoted as saying, initially by someone completely different, so I’m not sure why you are impressed by that.

      I’ve heard this argument before, about GWB — basically it entails a belief that any politician who doesn’t manage to impale themselves in the forehead with a stapler “can’t possibly be stupid.” You could literally say this about anyone famous — Pauly Shore? Kim Kardashian? Donald Trump? These people are more rich and successful than you, how could they possibly be stupid. But in order to believe it, you have to willfully ignore the moments where they sound and act like unintelligent people.

  15. Game Change was written by Jonathan from Buffy. Now you know.

  16. I think it’s too soon to enjoy, but… it will stand as a record of what is was like when people watch it ten years from now on their… holodecks? Like, it’s too familiar now, but it’s good that it was made so close to the actual events, so it can retain a kind of authenticity. For the holodecks.

  17. I feel like I’m spending too much time during this election cycle wincing at candidate comments to want to spend any time at all reliving all my wincing from four years ago. Especially because that was a LOT of wincing.

  18. hey guys! long time lurker, first time commentator! excitement! well, for me anyway.

    i read the book game change and it was probably one of the best books i’ve read in a long time. but they used the most boring part of the entire book to make this movie. seriously, all of the crazy obama/clinton drama was WAY more awesome and would have been a very compelling movie, illustrating a lot of stuff that wasn’t really in the news the way mccain/palin were. i gave up on this movie about 30 minutes in, after i realized it was basically a gussied up version of the 2008 news cycle.

  19. Even though I’m Canadian I still have a strong interest in American Politics mostly because of the stakes and drama involved (although Canadian politics is starting to get interesting; google Pierre Poutine). I read the movie as more of digression of what has happened to half of the political spectrum since 2008. Sarah Palin was the test case for how empty headed know-nothings with focus group tested platitudes could have a real chance of being in control of nuclear arsenal by focusing fear and hatred at the “non-real America”.

    Obviously, that’s nothing new to point out though(abortions for some, miniature american flags for others).

    • I agree completely. I saw it as the story of how some of the most principled Republicans (“Put American First!”) opened Pandora’s Box, empowering the anti-intellectual evangelicals to be the voice of the party (“Gotcha journalism!” “Obama’s a muslim!”).

      I don’t think it is too early to declare her nomination for VP as the turning point for American politics. Lieberman as a foil to Palin is an interesting perspective I did not consider before this movie, and while I think Lieberman is a complete boob, it does make me wonder what the string-theory-universe with him on the ticket is like.

      So stay sane, Canada, cause I only speak English, giving me few ex-pat options.

  20. I really enjoyed Sara Paulson(‘s lip filler).

  21. erg! Facebook connect thingy.

  22. I loved this movie. I thought it was fantastic. And if Julianne Moore doesn’t win an Emmy for this performance, I’m going to set shit on fire.

  23. You could tell they were banking on Palin being in the Republican contest. So it could be a sort of commentary on how she got to where she is.Unfortunately the real Sarah Palin realized the easiest way to milk her star power was to become a Fox bobble-head, much easier than that public-y service-y thing.

  24. I can’t watch the movie, because I’m too bothered by the fact that Julianne Moore looks like she is making a funny pelican face when she imitates Palin. C’mon, you know the funny cartoon pelican I’m talking about, right?
    Uhm could someone lend me a gif?

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