Thursday, February 2, 2012

Game Change trailer: Julianne Moore takes on Sarah Palin (and Tina Fey)

The full-length trailer for the HBO movie Game Change, which follows the quixotic McCain/Palin campaign over the course of the 2008 presidential race, is here. The film, directed by Jay Roach, features Ed Harris as McCain, Woody Harrelson as campaign manager Steve Schmidt and, of course, Julianne Moore as Palin.

The first thing I noticed about the trailer is the fact that Moore appears to be playing Palin less as a Tina Fey-type caricature and more as an actual human being. That wouldn't come as so much of a surprise - after all, this is HBO, a network with a reputation for artistry to uphold - were it not for the fact that, outside of Moore's performance, the trailer doesn't do much in the way of going beyond the same tropes. We see Palin's triumphant "hockey mom" speech at the Republican National Convention; her much publicized shopping spree; the disastrous Katie Couric interview. We even see the quote about the proximity of Russia and Alaska that, as a result of Fey's impression, became the widely parodied "I can see Russia from my house" meme.

There are intriguing glimpses here; a shot of Palin, exhausted and broken, curled up in a robe after lamenting that she misses her baby, holds promise, as does the steely resolve Moore's Palin displays in the final shot, when she hisses "I so don't want to go back to Alaska." That moment, when her naked ambition comes to the fore, is a refreshing change of pace from the conventional narrative of an air-headed, unprepared woman who was thrust into the spotlight as a bid for buzz and subsequently sunk McCain's presidential hopes. Moore's apparent respect for the character is also promising, because an actor's disdain for a character tends to come through in bad ways in a performance (just ask the cast of W.). And maybe it's just the memory of Moore's bahston accent on 30 Rock, but I appreciate the lighter touch she takes with Palin's folksy dialect.

Overall, though, this trailer doesn't hold the promise of adding much new to the Palin narrative. Let's hope that the film spends more time looking at Palin's ruthless side - the side that has come out more in the wake of the failed McCain/Palin candidacy - and less time mocking her ignorance and vapidity. We already have Tina Fey to do that.

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