Game Change

Jay Roach directing Will Ferrell in The Campaign

The Campaign is much edgier than director Jay Roach‘s previous comedies. While many of them features titans going head-to-head – Mike Myers vs. Mike Myers, Stiller vs. De Niro, and Rudd vs. Carrell – he’s never taken it to this extent. From how Roach describes it, that darker side derives from the film’s R-rating, which Roach, Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, & Co. fully embrace. There’s an inherent meanness to the lengths Ferrell and Galifianakis’ characters go. When The Campaign takes a slightly sentimental turn towards the end, it works in part because of their, as Roach describes it, undeniable likability. To make their face-off work, Jay Roach went through his fair share of neurosis, a character trait part of all the comedies he’s made.

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Culture Warrior

There are those on the right who have said that Game Change is a partisan smear. At the same time, some on the left may have gone into the program expecting a SNL-style “look-how-dumb-Palin-is” work of predictable affirmation. But while hit jobs and hagiographies might make for effective 30-second political ads, they can’t sustain a two-hour block of television. Game Change, by contrast, is a gripping (though by no means perfect) two-hour block of television. But the term “block of television” does not necessarily carry the same connotations as “TV movie.” The distinction here is important. Game Change’s central thesis is not a political point about either John McCain or Sarah Palin as candidates (what could a TV movie possibly say that’s new or urgent in this respect?), but is instead a lamentation about how our political landscape is determined (on all sides of the ideological spectrum) by the media cycles of Celebrity 2.0. HBO has been preoccupied for quite some time by the major chapters in American history, rolling out expensive and impressive miniseries detailing the canonical moments that Americans learned about during their primary education: whether it be The Revolutionary War and the stories of the Founding Fathers (John Adams (2008)), WWII (Band of Brothers (2001) and The Pacific (2010)), or man’s journey to the moon (From the Earth to the Moon). However, HBO’s original programming has also taken microscopic examinations of recent, not-so-canonized history with smaller-scale projects like Recount (2008), Too Big to Fail (2011), and, of […]

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When HBO wanted to create an adaptation of the best-selling book “Game Change,” about the 2008 presidential race between John McCain and Barack Obama, they picked up the phone and called Jay Roach – the director behind Austin Powers and The Fockers who also delivered them the television movie Recount. Now, Roach has covered, semi-fictionally, politics in 2000 and in 2008. Slog through the dialogue between Woody Harrelson as Steve Schmidt (the Republican strategist) and Ed Harris as McCain, and you’ll be rewarded briefly with who will inevitably be the real star of the show, Julianne Moore slingin’ a down home twang as Sarah Palin. The question is this: with so much going on socially and economically, are we really interested in going back in time to examine a reality television star?

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She may have never actually said that she could see Russia from her house (that’s the power of Palin parody), but the former Governor of Alaska will have plenty of chances to deliver new quotables when The Undefeated hits screens. In what must be either a self-mockingly ironic (considering it focuses on someone who’s literally been defeated before) or a metaphorical title, Sarah Palin will be seen rising through the political ranks, earning her spot as Governor of Alaska, and securing a place on the 2008 Presidential ticket for the Republican Party. Directed by Stephen K. Bannon, it features footage from former campaigns, interviews with Palin, and talks with Palin’s allies according to Movieline. The oddity here is that it’s not an indie aiming for festivals – it’s a non-objective documentary being released in Iowa. Then New Hampshire. And South Carolina. And Nevada. You know, the primary states.

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