In this dramatization of the 2000 presidential election, Al Gore concedes the presidency to George W. Bush, but recants when he learns of irregularities in the Florida vote count. Democratic strategists Ronald Klain and Michael Whouley race to Florida to uncover the truth, as do Republicans under James Baker III. Between faulty voting equipment and the vagaries of Florida's Secretary of State Katherine Harris, a 36-day stalemate ensues. Written by
If you were paying attention to the United States presidential election in 2000, then I suppose you must have a streak of masochism in order to watch this recapitulation--it is bound to stir up the powerful emotions experienced at the time, no matter what side of the divide you were on. Just read some of the reviews and comments to verify what a hot button issue this still is. If you were not paying attention in 2000, or you are too young to remember, then this film will certainly introduce you to all the major events and issues: hanging chads, dimpled chads, recounts, court cases, accusations of voter suppression, confusing ballots, the status of military votes, and so forth. The major players in this high-stakes drama are all here too, and documentary footage is inserted for believability. The film is definitely more than loosely based on fact, since most of the public statements are taken from the record. It's the extrapolations to what went on behind closed doors that is open to question.
This plays like a thriller, even for those who are familiar with the story. If none of this ever happened, then I think all would agree that this is a good movie with a great plot and fine cast. Laura Dern, as Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, creates a memorable character and Tom Wilkinson is a standout as Bush's legal adviser James Baker (Secratary of State under George H. W. Bush). Wilkinson captures Baker almost to the point where you could mistake him for the real person.
I think it came as a surprise at the time that the United States election process could ever be so fouled up. If there is a non-partisan message to be had from this movie it is that measures should be taken to prevent this kind of thing from happening again. While the 2000 election led to the Election Reform Act of 2002, the process is still far from perfect, especially since implementation details are left up to the individual states. Much controversy still exists over electronic voting machines, requirements for user ID, and so forth. And the current Coleman vs. Franken senate contest in Minnesota, now in its fourth month and still undecided, proves that extremely close contests are still messy affairs. Since there are so many arguments to be made on either side in such cases, I often think that such close elections should be decided by a coin toss.
It seems impossible to find a generally-accepted unbiased telling of the 2000 election. The reviews for all books I have looked into seem to split on party lines. Maybe it is impossible to be impartial on this one.
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