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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Game Change is a political docudrama that centers on Sarah Palin's involvement in Senator John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. Needless to say, the content isn't going to grab most teens' attention, but if yours is particularly curious about the story, there's some merit to the movie, thanks to its unique look at the behind-the-scenes strategizing that results in what voters actually see from political candidates. Game Change offers an intriguing look at the election process, and it encourages critical thinking about our political system and the players in it. As for the players in this story, their characterizations are subject to exaggeration, so remind teens that what they're watching is a fictionalized version of historic events and people. Content-wise, strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "ass," "goddammit," and "hell") is the primary concern.
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What's the story?
GAME CHANGE is a docudrama about the makings of the McCain-Palin campaign leading up to the 2008 presidential election. The movie takes its title from a controversial book of the same name by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, but it departs from the book's all-encompassing investigation of the campaign's players and focuses instead on the Republican pairing of Senator John McCain (Ed Harris) and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (Julianne Moore). Told mostly from the point of view of campaign advisor Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson), who was instrumental in bringing Palin on board, Game Change chronicles the Republican team's selection of Palin as McCain's running mate, her tumultuous introduction to media scrutiny, her struggles to cast herself as a viable national candidate, and the impact the events had on her emotional wellbeing.
Is it any good?
Game Change offers viewers a no-holds-barred glimpse at closed-door politics. Even taking into account the assumption that many of the story's finer details are embellished (or perhaps even fabricated) for dramatic effect, there's a lot of value to seeing the basics of how things unfold behind the scenes. From the process behind selecting a presidential running mate to the strategic training to perform well in a debate, Game Change makes you think long and hard about how politicians are groomed for marketability -- sometimes at the expense of actual ability -- especially in an era that's ruled by the unforgiving nature of instant news via the Internet.
It's easy to forget that while it's based on the emotionally charged real-life events of the 2008 presidential campaign, Game Change is a fictionalized interpretation crafted from the accounts of some of the major players in the Republican camp. It focuses most intently on Palin, casting her in alternating sympathetic and critical lights and re-raising questions about the strategy behind her selection as McCain's right-hand woman. It's been said by some that Game Change is another attempt to discredit her, but in many ways it accomplishes the opposite, giving viewers a closer look at the momentous challenges she faced as an unprepared national candidate thrust onto the biggest stage in politics. In doing so, the movie also sends another important reminder to viewers: Politicians, for all the pomp and circumstance surrounding them, are just people, and despite their efforts to make voters forget it, they make mistakes just like everyone else.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the political system. Do you think the election process is a fair one? What flaws do you see? Can an "average Joe" candidate truly compete with someone who has wealth or fame on his or her side?
Do you think Game Change is fair to Palin? In what ways does it cast her in a negative light? Do you believe there was an ulterior motive to the writers' portrayal of her? Even though this is fiction, is it possible that the movie's characterization of her could impact people's impression of her?
How does the Internet affect how news is shared and received? What are the repercussions of the instantaneous distribution of information that might not be entirely true? Are these repercussions different on a personal level (between friends, for instance) than they are on a public stage (i.e., a national campaign)? How has this accessibility to information changed the nature of political elections?
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