Julianne Moore dominates Game Change
HBO recently aired its original film Game Change, which depicts the story of how John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign advisors, particularly Steve Schmidt, made a last-minute, high-risk bet on a virtual stranger named Sarah Palin and how they got more than they bargained for. It’s an entertaining piece of work that gives us a glance behind the closed doors and the media buzz and the larger-than-life parodies. Yet, the film doesn’t exactly tell us much we didn’t already know, even as it confirms suspicions worse than we might have imagined. And it occasionally dips into parody itself, holding up something of an ill-prepared narcissist without much depth behind the effigy. Game Change might have flaws, but they cannot be found in the acting, which is solid across the board, from Sarah Paulson’s horrified Nicolle Wallace to Woody Harrelson’s no-nonsense Schmidt. The real story, however, is Julianne Moore’s Palin, who pounds through the narrative like a freight-train without somehow flying off the rails. The performance is one of masterful technical proficiency, absolutely nailing the ticks, the pronunciations, the accent, the mannerisms, the walk, etc. Sometimes you could swear it’s Palin herself, which is not something you can often say of portrayals of real-life individuals (not that you always should, but you get my point). Moore is somehow simultaneously subtle and big, mimicking and creating, harsh and kind. It’s jaw-dropping work from whom I’ve recently come to consider one of our best working actresses.
Julianne Moore has a tendency to fly under the radar. Perhaps it’s her personality. Perhaps it’s the projects she chooses. Perhaps it’s the naturalism and lack of “bigness” characteristic of her best work. Whatever the reason, Moore has earned a great deal of respect but surprisingly little awards recognition. I must admit that she’s flown under my personal radar as well. I remember being wowed years ago by her contributions to two of my favorites, Boogie Nights and Magnolia, but only now do I realize how incredibly gifted she is. Who can forget her hilarious dead-panning in The Big Lebowski? Her intentionally mannered vulnerability in Far From Heaven? Her tragic resignation in The Hours? Her relaxed eccentricity and cringing regret in The Kids Are All Right? Add in Game Change, A Single Man, everything else I haven’t seen, and the fact that she can bring truth to an endeavor as scattershot as Crazy, Stupid, Love., and you have a pretty compelling case for one of our greatest living actresses. I’m not sure why I hardly noticed it before, but it suffices to say that I have some catching up to do in her filmography.
Sometimes things click even though you thought they had been previously aligned to do so beforehand. Julianne Moore in Game Change clicked with me. Now it’s time to discover what I’ve been missing out on.