Recount Movie Review

UNRATED, 116 min, 2008

Director: Jay Roach
Writer: Danny Strong (written by)
Stars: Kevin Spacey, Bob Balaban, Denis Leary

Recount is angering, sometimes very funny, and utterly absorbing in its recounting of the terrible travesty of justice that occurred during the 2000 Presidential Election and the furor over the outcome (or lack thereof) in the aftermath.

Kevin Spacey stars as (real-life friend of his) Ron Klain, a former campaign leader for Al Gore who was asked to take the lead in the midst of the confusion after the “hanging chad” controversy in Florida during the election. He replaces Warren Christopher (John Hurt), who rolls over at the mere mention of controversy by the GOP. Klain’s team consists of the sharp-witted Michael Whouley (Denis Leary) and the ice cream-loving David Boies (Ed Begley, Jr.).

Former Secretary of State and ex-Democrat James Baker (Tom Wilkinson) is his opposition, leading the Republican side of the political firestorm. He is seen here as a bulldog, aided and abetted by a worm-like strategist in Ben Ginsberg (Bob Balaban, in rare form).

The cast here is uniformly excellent, with sometimes amusing and very strong performances from Leary, Balaban, Begley Jr., Hurt, etc., as well as Bruce Altman, Bruce McGill and Mitch Pileggi (among others).

However, it is Laura Dern who walks away with her role as current Secretary of State Katherine Harris, the Floridian makeup magnate who royally screws over the entire country when this election goes off the rails. What is remarkable is how Harris achieves exactly the result her party and her belief system dictates, seemingly without having the slightest clue what she’s doing. Dern is dead-on in her portrayal of the tackily-dressed and garishly-made-up Harris, gaining many of the film’s best laughs (“Is this normal?”), particularly in dumbfounded reaction to the growing hatred of her in the aftermath of this fiasco.

The film, directed by Jay Roach (of Austin Powers and Meet the Parents franchise fame) and written by Danny Strong (formerly a recurring guest on TV’s Gilmore Girls and Buffy the Vampire Slayer), is a well-crafted, fascinating insider’s look at the dirty games of politics to rival All the President’s Men and others of its ilk. The screenplay manages a great attention to detail, and balances this against some acidically-witty and clever dialogue. This is a TV movie to be sure, but so much more! It’s one of the year’s best films.

Note: Nominated for 11 Emmys, including Mini-series/TV Movie: Best Lead Actor (Spacey, Wilkinson), Supporting Actor (Leary, Balaban), Supporting Actress (Dern) and Writing. It won for Best Director, Television Movie and Editing.


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