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Game Change (2012)

Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska becomes Senator John McCain's running mate in the 2008 Presidential election.


Jay Roach


Danny Strong, Mark Halperin (book) | 1 more credit »
3,748 ( 929)
Won 3 Golden Globes. Another 28 wins & 39 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Julianne Moore ... Sarah Palin
Woody Harrelson ... Steve Schmidt
Ed Harris ... John McCain
Peter MacNicol ... Rick Davis
Jamey Sheridan ... Mark Salter
Sarah Paulson ... Nicolle Wallace
Ron Livingston ... Mark Wallace
David Barry Gray ... Todd Palin
Larry Sullivan ... Chris Edwards
Mikal Evans Mikal Evans ... Bexie Nobles
Colby French ... Tucker Eskew
Bruce Altman ... Fred Davis
Spencer Garrett ... Steve Biegun
Brian Howe ... Randy Scheunemann
John Rothman ... A.B. Culvahouse


Summer, 2008: John McCain secures the nomination, but polls behind Barack Obama. Strategist Steve Schmidt suggests a game changer: picking a conservative female with media savvy, unknown Alaska governor Sarah Palin, as vice president. She's an immediate hit and a quick study - the gap closes. Then, Tina Fey's impersonation, a raft of criticism, and missing her family send Palin into a near-catatonic state: she doesn't prepare for her Katie Couric interview and bombs. Schmidt searches for an answer: don't expect her to learn the issues, but give her a script. Palin does well in the debate with Biden; she finds her voice, goes off script, and goes rogue. A mistake? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Politics would never be the same.


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Parents Guide:

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Official Sites:

Official Site - HBO





Release Date:

10 March 2012 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Game Change See more »

Filming Locations:

Brooklandville, Maryland, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Film adaptation writer Danny Strong has stated that he interviewed around twenty-five people from the 2008 John McCain - Sarah Palin U.S. Presidential campaign. See more »


Steve Schmidt tells Sarah Palin that, if everything goes according to plan, her Secret Service agents will be with her for the rest of her life. Vice Presidents only receive Secret Service protection for six months after leaving office, and if she were to succeed John McCain as President then ten years after leaving office. See more »


Steve Schmidt: I need you to step in and talk to her.
John McCain: I don't know, Stevie-boy. I don't know.
Steve Schmidt: Sir, I can't control her anymore. I don't know if she's getting on a campaign plane in the morning or what she's gonna say at night. We need to finish this campaign with as much dignity as possible and the only way that can happen is if you get her in line.
John McCain: That's not gonna do it, Steve. She might start turning on *me*.
See more »


Referenced in The Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Episode #22.10 (2013) See more »


Beyond the Great Divide
Written by Jack Wesley Routh and J.C. Crowley (as John Charles Crowley II)
Performed by Emmylou Harris
Courtesy of Nonesuch Records
See more »

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User Reviews

And I can see Russia from my house
30 December 2012 | by freemantle_ukSee all my reviews

Sarah Palin is one of the most famous politicians in the world, a darling of the American Right and poster girl of the Tea Party. She is also one of the most controversial for the way she acted in the 2008 Presidential Election and a source of fear and mocking from most people who do not share her beliefs. In 2012 HBO made a TV movie, hoping to coincide with a potential Palin Presidential Campaign which luckily never happened. But Game Change is still an interesting film for people interested in American Politics.

During the 2008 election Barack Obama is storming the ahead in the polls, having a successful trip in Europe and becomes known for his intelligence and charisma. The John McCain campaign led by Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson) feel the campaign needs to do something radical to get the media's attention and after its leaked that McCain's preferred choice for his VP nominate, Joe Lieberman, they see an opportunity to surprise the media and the voters. They feel John McCain needs to appeal to both women and the right and find the perfect candidate, Sarah Palin (Julianne Moore), Governor of Alaska. But despite her confidence as a speechmaker the stresses of the campaign makes Palin more unhinged and campaign more chaotic as she makes more and more gaffs.

This is not a film that is going to appeal to Palin supporters, it takes a negative view of her as the film progresses. But I personally like to think of Game Change as both a story of the corrupting influence of modern, national politics on someone who was clearly not ready. There are moments showing Palin to be competent when being asked questions in a personal interview, thinking on her feet during a her convention speech and her great strength to the Republican party was see was seemingly relatable to middle Americans and approachable when she was governor and has a great care and understanding for people with Downs Syndrome. She also occasionally came up with a good point, like that it crude of the media to pick on her 17-year-old daughter. But it was clear she was not well educated, not even having a basic understanding issues and the world and cannot even answer questions that even people would little understanding of politics could answer.

There is a strong cast in the film, Moore, Harrelson, Ed Harris and Sarah Paulson. All of them play their roles very well and Moore does get all the mannerisms and speech perfectly. This blended well with the naturalistic direction Jay Roach (most famous for the Austin Powers films and Meet the Parents). Add the characters are well written, all complex and well respected professionals. Whilst Harris did not really look much like John McCain the Senator was treated with respected and wants to do the right thing. He had suffered of being on the receiving end of a dirty campaign and did not wanted to win fairly. His team are smart: but they made a massive mistake picking Palin because she was inexperienced, unintelligence and it was a case was the campaign having their cake and eating it. I am personally of the view McCain did not need to appeal to the right because they were never going to vote for Obama and McCain needed a running mate who had economic experience.

Roach has a low key style of direction and it is admitted a little too televisual. There is nothing wrong with it and it blends well when real footage was used. The pacing was fine and it will appeal to people who are fans of The West Wing, even though this film is more focused on a few character relationships between the characters and how they centre around Palin.

The film itself revolves around five major events, the selection of Palin, the Convention, the disastrous interviews, the preparations for the VP debate and the end campaign as Palin goes rouge. There is large number of events to put into a film that is only two hours long and some of the pacing is at times too quickly, particularly at the end where she turned from a maniac depressive to being like a bull in a china shop and goes rogue. I would have wanted to see more of that and how the campaign turned so bitter.

Game Change is an interesting enough film, even if it has a rather broad approach. But it does satisfy if you are longing for more West Wing style storytelling.


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