Viewers will have to wait until Saturday to see HBO's buzzy new telefilm Game Change, an adaptation of the gossipy 2010 book chronicling John McCain and Sarah Palin's tumultuous, ill-fated White House bid. But the movie, starring Ed Harris as McCain and Julianne Moore as Palin, is already outraging conservatives, who argue that it's disrespectful to the former running mates. "I won't watch it," McCain says. "I know it's based on a book that's totally unfair and untrue, especially to Sarah Palin." (Jay Roach, the movie's director, defends his work as "an incredibly well-researched movie.") What exactly are opponents of the film riled up about? Here, five scenes, viewed in advance by critics, that are fueling the controversy:
1. Palin's diva meltdown
In Game Change, Palin is portrayed as "flighty and temperamental," and a "Hollywood-style diva," says Jason Apuzzo at Moviefone. In one scene, she melts down after failing to master talking points prescribed by the campaign's press guru, says Scott Collins at the Los Angeles Times. "I am not your puppet!" she shrieks. "You have ruined my reputation! I am ruined in Alaska!"
2. Her embarrassing tutoring session
"Game Change stretches the Palin-as-ignoramus cliche past the point of credibility," says Apuzzo. The film depicts tutoring sessions in which Mama Grizzly was briefed on the differences between the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, what the Fed is, why there are two Koreas, and basic facts about World War II. Apparently unaware that would-be VPs should already know such things, she dives into the tutoring sessions "like an enthusiastic freshman," says Collins. When asked if she wants a break, she shouts, "No way! This is flippin' awesome!"
3. The comical Katie Couric interview
The film recreates many of Palin's now-iconic gaffes, but none are as squirm-inducing as her disastrous interview with Katie Couric, says Ken Tucker at Entertainment Weekly. The film "does a wizardly job" of editing Moore-as-Palin with the actual footage of Couric. But more damning is the scene that follows, in which Palin moans, "I thought Katie liked me!"
4. The painful Saturday Night Live viewing
"The most vital scene in Game Change" is a bit of a meta-moment, says Bruce R. Miller at the Sioux City Journal. It comes when a horrified Palin watches Tina Fey play her on Saturday Night Live. "In a brief instant, you sense the hurt, the concern, the 'oh, my God, what have I done?' feeling that must have filled the real Palin."
5. Her egging on of a rabid crowd
When campaign crowds begin calling Obama a Muslim and a terrorist, Harris' McCain recoils, saying, "This is not the campaign I wanted to run." Moore's Palin, on the other hand, gamely leads "U.S.A., U.S.A." chants, says David Frum at The Daily Beast. "Hundreds of thousands of people are coming to see me, not John McCain," she tells the campaign. "I am going to do what I want." Later, a staffer wonders if Palin "might be mentally unstable."
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