Two movies that have been in the news lately are the direct opposite of The Hunger Games fantasy escapism or creepy skinny Jonah Hill’s 21 Jump Street because they hit too close to home. HBO’s Game Change has lost a little bit of steam since it came out a few weeks ago but it was in the news for being an accurate depiction of Sarah Palin’s behavior behind the scenes of the 2008 election. The War Room is a 1992 documentary that followed Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign, focusing on his campaign staff.
Now, it’s obvious that election season is never fun. We’re hit over the head with the smallest political news everyday and emotions run high whenever someone says anything even remotely political. It’s even tougher on the other side of the podium. Imagine if the most powerful media in the world picked apart, analyzed, and lied about everything you’ve ever done. On the plus side, if I ever run for president I’ll be a shoo-in with voters who polish off a six packs on Tuesday nights while failing decide what to watch on Netflix and falling asleep before 10:00.
The subject of The War Room is not Bill Clinton, but his main advisors James Carville and George Stephanopolous. Stephanopolous is a more quiet voice in the war room (the meetings where consultants argued and decided what direction to take Clinton’s campaign) and Carville is the rock star, at one point giving a passionate speech to staffers. It’s a political strategy and even though you know the outcome, it plays like a thriller.
I’d recommend watching Game Change first because otherwise you’ll be depressed to see how the game has changed. Julianne Moore is the star of Game Change, playing Palin will do that, but the movie is really about John McCain’s advisors trying to reign her in and control the damage after she speaks. Woody Harrelson plays campaign manager Steve Schmidt, who’s given the tough job of trying to deal with Palin. The movie is based on a book of the same name and information gathered from confidential sources (which aren’t hard to guess when you consider how well McCain’s subordinates come off).
Where The War Room plays like a high stakes thriller a la The Ides of March, Game Change sometimes comes off like a big budget comedy because of Moore’s portrayal of Palin’s earnest idiocy. Below the laughs there are squirms (particularly the infamous Katie Couric interview) but below the squirms is no small amount of frustration. Schmidt chose Palin to run with McCain because of her electability. He knew he was going up against the hugely popular Obama and Palin was an attempt to blindside the voters. McCain’s camp was looking for a game change (Like the title, get it? Anyways…). He knew she wasn’t prepared to run the U.S. of A. if McCain couldn’t act as commander in chief but went with her anyway. It’s hard to picture that happening in The War Room.