Wednesday, May 28, 2008
MINI REVIEW: RECOUNT (****)
Love him or hate him, there's no denying that our current President, George W. Bush, stole the 2000 election, from Al Gore. You're delusional if you don't think this is true, and if you can't accept this fact, then don't bother reading this review or seeking out the excellent new HBO film RECOUNT (****). Directed by Jay Roach (MEET THE PARENTS, AUSTIN POWERS) and written by newcomer Danny Strong, RECOUNT is an endlessly fascinating and often hilarious look at the back-stage wrangling and maneuvering that went on in the Bush and Gore camps during the Florida recount back in 2000. The film has a phenomenal ensemble cast, led by Kevin Spacey, Tom Wilkinson, Denis Leary, Bob Balaban, Bruce Altman, Bruce McGill, Ed Begley, Jr., John Hurt, Laura Dern, and just about every single character-actor or "face" (as my father likes to call them) that are working in Hollywood. Strong's apolitical script lays the facts out, much in the vein of ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN and ZODIAC. Both the Democrats and the Republicans are given equal screen time and both are shown for what they are: two passionate political parties that wanted their candidate to win. It's just that the trickery and deceit practiced by Team Bush and his cronies in Florida is despicable to the point of nausea. I don't consider myself a very political person (I have voted once in my life, for Kerry) and this year's onslaught of Presidential politics leading up to the November election has left me tired and numb to all of the stories (good and bad) about our current Presidential choices. Nobody has said or done anything that I feel is truly remarkable or life-changing so I am not really sure where my next vote will land. But one thing I do know: Bush is a liar and a cheat and he's acted like this on more than one occasion. RECOUNT, in sobering, detailed fashion, makes it perfectly clear what really went down in Florida roughly eight years ago, and it's appalling that an injustice like that could actually transpire in this day and age in America. Again, I applaud the filmmakers for not making RECOUNT into some sort of liberal fantasy or anti-Bush propaganda piece. RECOUNT is a work of investigative journalism (similar to THE INSIDER) posing as cinematic entertainment, and it succeeds on many levels. The choice of Roach as director is a little curious; he's a big-budget comedy guy who has never once stepped out of his wheel house. And granted, Strong's script is so damn sharp that anybody could have pointed a camera and just shot the footage. It's the swift pace, satirical tone, and comedic ease that the film possesses that can be traced back to Roach, who stepped in for the recently deceased Sydney Pollack as director. Spacey, in a performance that could be considered a "comeback" of sorts, is tough as nails and extremely captivating as Ron Klain, Gore's head campaign strategist. He's met with equal vigor by Wilkinson, who portrays Bush team leader James Baker with just the right amount of intelligence and shiftiness. Leary gets some great foul-mouthed lines of dialogue as Michael Wouley, another Gore staffer. There isn't a bum performance in the entire lot. It's too bad that American audiences, by and large, have shunned any sort of entertainment that depicts current politics. Had RECOUNT gone to the big screen, it probably would have bombed. People can't be bothered to learn while they're being entertained. They can't seem (or don't want) to make room for the possibility that knowledge and entertainment can co-exist. Thank God for HBO. They still seem to want to explore our current societal landscape and provide thought provoking works of entertainment. RECOUNT is one of the best films I've seen this year.