There’s something odd about making historical movies so soon after the event happened. Even a good decade means that there’s at least been a generational gap, although major events will always remain in the public’s mind. Game Change is coming out a mere 4 years after Sarah Palin’s attempt at vice-presidency. Yet with another election just around the corner, the timing on this couldn’t be better, especially on showing how bad the last 4 years could’ve been.
John McCain (Ed Harris) knows he needs something to help him in the polls. Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson) suggests getting a charismatic woman as his VP, and eventually Alaskan governor Sarah Palin (Julianne Moore) is picked. And from there, we should all know what happened.
Obviously, the movie doesn’t really need to focus on the history part of this. 20-30 years from now, maybe. As it stands, what it’s really meant to show is just how big a mistake was almost made. It quickly becomes clear to everyone involved, from the staff to the viewer, that Sarah Palin was unprepared and nobody knew it. The checks weren’t made, people weren’t asked the right questions, nothing was done right. And how unprepared she was is simply terrifying. No matter what your political stance is, the honest fact the movie shows is that, emotionally and intellectually, she should not have been vice president, and the constant threat looming over of John McCain dying in office and leaving her in charge could’ve been downright dangerous.
The other big focus the movie has is on the media. The movie constantly switches between its own footage and archival footage of various news outlets (along with Tina Fey’s portrayal on Saturday Night Live). All of it is shown to give the pure feeling of how Palin wasn’t ready. When she agrees that she can handle the media early on, you might wince knowing just what happened. And yet, for all the constant criticisms of her, we’re also reminded of the 48 hour news cycle. Schmidt says at one point that it doesn’t matter how much you screw up, in 48 hours the media won’t remember as long as you make a great speech in the meantime. And Palin makes some great charismatic speeches. We come to two big questions. Could she have ultimately actually come out on top, even with all the speeches she made? And will anybody even remember anything she did in 20 years? Oh sure, we’ll probably latch on to her biggest mistakes (people still joke about Al Gore inventing the internet), but will we really remember how close we might’ve been to having Palin as president?
In a way, the movie stands as a historical artifact this way, a way to exist past the 48 hour news cycle and stand as a constant reminder of what surely would’ve been a political disaster. Especially as we get closer to Election Day.