Julianne Moore Plays a Frightening Sarah Palin in the Trailer for Game Change

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Feb. 1 2012 2:47 PM

Trailer Critic: Game Change

Julianne Moore plays Sarah Palin in Game Change
Julianne Moore plays Sarah Palin in the trailer for Game Change.

At some point we’ll have to get past the impersonations—Game Change, the HBO film based on the book of the same name about the 2008 election, looks to be good in its own right—but it doesn’t have to be right off the bat. There’s something about portraying prominent politicians (they’re round-the-clock TV presences, their every tic is already analyzed endlessly by pundits and SNL) that invites scrutiny like few other roles. You can play a figure as famous as Howard Hughes or Truman Capote or Ray Charles, and people are more likely to judge your interpretation of the character than your impersonation. But portray a politician…

So how good is Julianne Moore’s Sarah Palin? From the look of this trailer, she doesn’t appear to have the frisky scampishness of Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin, but she appears to imbue the role with more than enough heft to carry it beyond an SNL skit. Moore often excels most when spitting and screaming in exasperated fury (I’d rather not use the word bitchy, but her characters are sometimes cast in that light), and she gets to do a lot of that here. By the time she hisses, “I so don’t want to go back to Alaska” (a line distinctly reminiscent of Streep-as-Thatcher’s “the pearls are non-negotiable”), she’s downright frightening.

Ed Harris also looks surprisingly natural as John McCain, and Woody Harrelson may be poised to continue his hot streak as McCain senior campaign strategist Steve Schmidt.

What about the movie itself? Director Jay Roach has had some success in the past with ballot-box drama (after Game Change he’s lined up yet another campaign film, the forthcoming Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis comedy Dog Fight), and Game Change looks like it won’t lower his strong overall batting average (he made his name with Austin Powers, Mystery, Alaska, and Meet the Parents). Roach has called the story “almost Shakespearean” and compared it to Greek tragedy, but the literary predecessor this trailer brings to mind is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. By the end of the trailer, the McCain campaign has created a monster, and they know they’ve lost control.

Grade: B

Previously:

Trailer Critic: Friends With Kids
Trailer Critic: Prometheus
Trailer Critic: The Hobbit
Trailer Critic: Rock of Ages

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

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