HBO’s Eye-Opening ‘Game Change’

HBO continues its string of first-rate, recent political history with “Game Change” (HBO, 9 p.m.) an adaptation of the part of the account of the 2008 election dealing with the rise of Sarah Palin.

She was an astounding choice for John McCain’s running mate who was popular right off the bat and yet a reckless choice as well: She knew next to nothing about international affairs and nobody had vetted her.

The intensely reported drama is given some zing by Julianne Moore’s pitch-perfect portrayal, even rendering Tina Fey’s impersonation flat. Ed Harris is OK as McCain but doesn’t match the candidate’s stiff demeanor. It turns out “Game Change” is one of the strongest performances yet from Woody Harrellson as the political adviser Steve Schmidt who promotes the Palin candidacy and yet feels the most burned when she doesn’t work out.

The depiction can be kindly toward the Alaskan governor, but it’s ultimately devastating, with a pacing that’s akin to a “Frankenstein” story. It affects the current campaign only that it shines a light on major flaws in the system, and in voter preferences for a star over substance.

An interview I did with screenwriter Danny Strong appears here on Salon.Com.

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