What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that there is abundant profanity and a vulgar dialog reference to the sex scandal involving former President Bill Clinton. The cast of characters is split between Democrats and Republicans, with the script suggesting (but not as shrilly as documentaries like Fahrenheit 9/11 did) that the Republicans used thug tactics, smears, and cronyism to unfairly win the 2000 presidency (although some of the dialog refers to Democrats behaving just as unethically to "steal" past elections). There is also some social drinking.
What's the story?
This HBO movie is based on actual events and people involved in the bizarre climax of the 2000 presidential contest between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush, a verrrry narrow race in which thousands of crucial but botched votes from several counties in Florida were never conclusively tallied. On election day night, Gore is on the verge of conceding victory to Bush when Democratic campaign advisor Ron Klaim (Kevin Spacey) realizes that the error factor makes the vote too close to call. The Democrats file lawsuit after lawsuit demanding that the election be put on hold while a painstaking hand recount of each ballot take place -- considering the poorly designed punch cards, the faulty ballot machines in some urban (Democrat) neighborhoods, and the senior citizens who confusedly voted for the wrong candidate. The Republicans, meanwhile, want to stand by the early polls making Bush the clear winner. With growing impatience and anger, they see the whole controversy as the desperate Democrats trying to disqualify votes and steal the White House on technicalities.
Is it any good?
Next to Bush-bashing documentaries like Fahrenheit 911 and Unprecedented (which practically convict the GOP of racketeering), this scripted version is relatively fair and sympathetic to both ends. On a personal level, the focus is on Ron Klaim's conversion -- from disappointment over his earlier ouster from his job with the Democrats to a fighter with a renewed zeal to get his candidate in office. In the end we learn that the Republican's front man, James Baker (Tom Wilkinson), isn't very different, as he also harbors emotional loyalty to Bush, separate and distinct from dishonorable concerns of power, ideology, oil, or money.
Bush and Gore are only on the margins of this saga, with starring roles instead given to the personalities of campaign strategists and the quirks of a too-fallible election system and temperaments poorly designed to handle near-tie votes. How much you enjoy RECOUNT probably depends on what you thought of the Bush election and presidency (guess it's no "spoiler" that he won). If you consider it a shame, this is a scorching expose on What Went Wrong. If you think the Bush Administration the best thing ever, devoting nearly two hours to the fraught election may seem pointless and liberal-biased -- given that the Democrats come across as underdogs, and there is a what-if tone of regret that the recount did not proceed the way they wanted.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the characters and their motivations. Do you think this drama is unfair to one side or the other in the Bush-Gore rivalry, or does it "tell it like it is"? Do viewers feel any differently about the George W. Bush presidency after this film?