There can’t be much doubt that HBO’s Sarah Palin movie Game Change, which debuts March 10, gives the former governor the beatdown of a lifetime. Somewhere, the shade of Richard Nixon is cringing and saying, “Yikes. At least they credited me with basic intelligence.”
As played by Julianne Moore with an overly heavy midwestern accent and a dazed expression, Palin is seen being ignorant of what World War II was about and not understanding that the prime minister of Great Britain, not the queen, is the head of government.
Famously, Palin seemed lost for an answer when asked by Katie Couric to name a single newspaper she read (instead answering, as though this were possible, “all of them”). But even assuming she’s a rank illiterate — wouldn’t she have come across a few TV shows and movies that could have told her about the Allies and the Axis? Didn’t she see Hugh Grant playing the prime minister in Love, Actually? Could Palin have ever been elected grade-school hall monitor, much less governor of her state, if she were such a ninny?
Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes is on record as saying he was “struck by how smart Palin was” when he and a boatload of other conservative pundits visited Alaska in 2007. Moreover, Palin has been a public figure for the better part of a decade now, and acquitted herself ably enough in her debate with Joe Biden, which led to no memorable gaffes. How did she pull that off if she’s such a mental midget?
According to Game Change, whose major source is apparently John McCain’s campaign strategist Steve Schmidt, she did it by borrowing some genius from…Steve Schmidt. Schmidt (played by an increasingly furious Woody Harrelson) is seen giving up on Palin’s ability to master policy details and deciding to simply supply her with 25 answers to the questions she’d be asked at the sole 2008 vice presidential debate. Reasoning that she was a great actress, he ordered her not to think but simply to memorize the answers. But could he really have predicted what questions were coming?
Even those who aren’t Palin fans may find Moore’s portrayal broad and harsh, though it allows her a few thrilling moments. The famous Republican convention speech in which Palin became an instant superstar (despite losing the services of her teleprompter) is treated with the awe it deserves, and a scene in which Palin is shown making a real connection with citizens afflicted with Down Syndrome shows off her magical personal touch.