"The chief reason to see Game Change is that it's fun," argues James Wolcott. "It has nothing new or profound to say about the runaway train of a presidential campaign, it doesn't paint any rainy moments of a candidate's somber reflection on the toll of his soul as the an aide prattles on the latest polls, it doesn't peel any of the crab shell off of John McCain for a look under the psychological hood, or show us a side of Sarah Palin that will send us to the rewrite pages of history. It doesn't drip oil from the ceiling like Ides of March, implicating everyone including the audience in collusion and corruption. It's a slow-burn comedy of exasperation."
Game Change, airing tonight on HBO, "is told through the eyes of the advisers who developed the losing strategy of Senator John McCain of Arizona and Gov Sarah Palin of Alaska," explains Alessandra Stanley in the New York Times. "In this iteration Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson), the senior adviser, is the war hero, and Senator McCain (Ed Harris) comes off as a crusty old soldier who follows orders but can't help grousing. There are some cracks in Julianne Moore's portrayal of Governor Palin: she leaves out the sexy sassiness. But considering the challenge — not to mention the incomparable Tina Fey parody — Ms Moore plays the candidate with surprising finesse. This is a sharp-edged but not unsympathetic portrait of a flawed heroine, colored more in pity than in admiration. Ms Palin's detractors will consider it generous, and her advocates have already dismissed it as a liberal smear job."
"As adapted by Danny Strong from the bestseller by Time's Mark Halperin and New York Magazine's John Heilemann, and as directed by Jay Roach (who helmed HBO's Recount), the film has a very specific focus," writes Matt Zoller Seitz at Vulture. "It's not about the rightness or wrongness of the Democratic or Republican platforms, or about any specific policy advanced by any candidate. It's about how the already insane intensity of the 24-hour news cycle got cranked up by the debut of YouTube, which gave average citizens the chance to watch Palin make an ass of herself in interviews on Good Morning America or Today, or Tina Fey mock Palin's 'Yah, you betcha!' density on Saturday Night Live, then watch those same clips over and over and over on demand, and send them to friends so that they can watch them endlessly, too. And it's about how Obama's team used these cultural facts to its candidate's advantage while McCain's team cynically misunderstood them…. The movie is so smart and ethical that I wish it were better. As a piece of filmmaking, it just feels too typical. I have a feeling that in a few years I'll remember it in much the same way that I remember Recount: as a surprisingly involving ripped-from-headlines political drama that I have to be reminded that I saw."
More from Chris Cabin (Slant, 1/4), Amy Davidson (New Yorker), Ryan Lattanzio (Evening Class), Richard Lawson (Atlantic Wire), Oscar Moralde (House Next Door), Alex Pareene (Salon), Scott Tobias (AV Club, C) and Alison Willmore (indieWIRE). Noreen Malone talks with Moore for Vulture, where co-author Heilemann chats with Jay Roach, and Alison Willmore interviews Danny Strong for indieWIRE.