The Campaign Spot

Watching the Same ‘Change’

Over on the home page, my review of the HBO movie Game Change is front and center.

I point out some examples where the figures who lived the scenes the movie dramatizes contend the movie-makers are making things up:

Danny Strong, the actor who wrote the screenplay, told MSNBC, “We stand by the film as being completely accurate and truthful and representing what happened. It’s true. The movie’s true.”

Any film that portrays the events of months or years is going to truncate events, leave things out, and make other changes to fit the running time and pacing of a movie. But where the filmmakers really let their disdain for everyone involved in the McCain campaign seep through is in the scenes they added.

For example, one foreign-policy adviser shows Palin a map and declares, “This is Germany. They were the primary antagonists during World War I and World War II. They allied with Japan to form what became known as the Axis Powers.” A fascinated Palin dutifully writes it down. The scene does not appear in the Heilemann and Halperin book. This scene was the opening anecdote of the glowing review by Bloomberg. Foreign-policy analyst Randy Scheunemann, Palin’s primary adviser on these issues during the campaign, calls the scene “absolutely untrue.”

Told that none of the potential running mates his team has been discussing will help his trailing campaign, Ed Harris’s McCain responds, rather dismissively, “Okay, so find me a woman.” Those words never appear in the book, and Steve Schmidt has stated McCain never said that. (It’s a small point, but the usually solid actor Harris occasionally portrays McCain raising his arms over his head at campaign rallies, something that his war injuries make impossible for McCain to do.)

Harrelson’s Steve Schmidt watches Palin’s answers to Katie Couric’s questions and gasps, “Oh my God! What have we done?” That scene and those words do not appear in Heilemann and Halperin’s book, either.

You can’t invent scenes and quotes and then insist the film is “completely accurate and truthful.”

This morning, another example:

“The only specific scene that I have a problem with is when Julianne as the character Sarah mispronounced Jimmy Choo. It was only a small dramatic license, but that never happened, and they also portray Sarah as having fun with the clothing and the real Sarah took it more seriously,” Ms. Kline said in her appearance on “Sarah Palin Radio.”

Big deal, some may argue. But the film consists of the actors reenacting events we all witnessed live in 2008 — Palin’s debut, her convention speech, her debate with Biden — and then the “behind the scenes” moments are where we’re supposed to be getting “the real story.” Except that “the real story” isn’t the real story. It’s a tweaked version of the real story, where Palin is even less informed than the examples given in the book, McCain is less sympathetic, and so on.

So . . . what’s the point of a film that amounts to exaggerated nonfiction? Some would argue that most of the media provides that every day.


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