Saturday, May 24, 2008


"Recount" (Jay Roach, 2008) Another of those HBO films that couldn't find a distributor despite its top-lined cast and A-list director. Jay Roach abandons the Fockers and the Austin Powers series for awhile to team with producer Sydney Pollack to tell the story of the machinations behind the 2000 election certification--the wheeling and dealing, the last minute "saves," the maneuvering among the state and federal courts, the hypocrisy and the political theater put on by two camps desperate to win. Bush and Gore, or the actors portraying them--body-doubles, really--are bearly seen, or appear as video-taped images. It's the folks in the background that matter as the whole country turns its eyes to Florida.

Leading the cast is
Kevin Spacey, making up for "Superman Returns" and "Fred Claus" by putting on a focussed, mature portrayal of former Gore Chief of Staff Ron Klain ("I don't even like Gore!"), Denis Leary as Michael Whouley, Ed Begley, jr. as the wonky attorney David Boies pleading the case, and John Hurt as the old school, but ineffectual Clinton negotiator Warren Christopher, playing by rules of civility.

On the Republican side is
Tom Wilkinson (I seem to be seeing Wilkinson in everything these days--where's Gene Hackman?) as James Baker, Bob Balaban as Ben Ginsberg, and Laura Dern as the frankly scary Katherine Harris.

It would all seem crazy if it weren't all true, and just to verify some of the more colorful aspects of the tale, actual new footage of the recreated events is synopsized in the closing credits.

Too much of a political hot potato to risk putting in theaters, "Recount" is one more political thriller that's stranger than fiction. There's a lot of great work being done on both sides of the camera, and the only shame is that the audience for it is so limited.

"Recount" premieres on HBO Sunday. Far better than a cable-watcher. Would that it were a matinee.

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