Back in 2008, actor and activist Matt Damon likened Sarah Palin’s transformation from Alaskan governor to vice-presidential candidate to “a bad Disney movie.” And while “President Hockey Mom: Don’t Puck With The Commander-in-Chief” hasn’t been made (yet), HBO did tell a portion of Palin’s meteoric and controversial rise to fame, both political and otherwise, with the adaptation of John Heilemann and Mark Halperin’s shocking and detailed account of the 2008 presidential campaign, Game Change.
So how did the film, which premiered over the weekend, portray Palin? It likely depends on who you ask. Some will argue that Julianne Moore’s performance and Danny Strong’s screenplay showed Palin as nothing more than an erratic, emotional, and downright ill-informed hockey mom thrust into a world of politics far beyond her grasp. Others will argue that Game Change actually went easy on Palin and showed her in a positive light as a determined wife and mother who simply took matters into her own hands.
While Palin herself and her political action committee have dismissed the movie, it may have actually done more good than harm for her image. Game Change, unquestionably, has moments that don’t shed the best light upon Palin and her actions on the campaign trail. From mental breakdowns (in one scene John McCain’s running mate, who is on a crash diet, zones out and mutters during an important briefing), to her stunning lack of knowledge about important facts (something that caught up with her, infamously, during that Katie Couric interview), to a blatant disregard for those working with her on the campaign (er, going “rogue”), anyone who was already anti-Palin was liking crying, “Toldja!” while watching.
Then again, even the most adamant anti-Palin probably discovered something even more shocking about themselves: feeling empathy for her in her unprecedented situation. Underneath Moore’s recreation of Palin’s iconic look, there was simply a person. A flawed person, certainly (how difficult was “Biden” to remember instead of “O’Biden”?), but also someone’s caring wife and mother. It’s hard to imagine any parent, no matter what their political background, that couldn’t identify with Palin when she reassured herself, “My baby is safe,” after speaking on the phone with her son, who was fighting in the Middle East.
How history will choose to remember Sarah Palin is still undecided, but with Game Change being the first important portrayal of her outside of Tina Fey’s classic parody on Saturday Night Live (which the movie pointed out, was something of a game changer in and of itself) this could very well be how people look back on her. So was Game Change fair to Palin, and McCain for that matter? Did the movie and Moore’s performance simply present who she really was, warts and all? Or did it feel as skewed and as much as in imitation of her as say, Saturday Night Live? Take the poll below and vote.
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