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This is an emotional roller-coaster that will keep you watching despite
knowing how it is going to end. There are very few films which have the
ability to suck in an audience so deeply even though they know what is
going to happen.
It raises questions about the 2000 election and does a fair job of cramming several weeks into two hours. The performances are pitch perfect and but Laura Dern in particular should win an Emmy for her portrayal of Katherine Harris. Your party affiliation should not prevent you from watching this film as it bounces back and forth between both campaigns without too overtly taking a side.
I don't know how Jay Roach got involved in directing this project, but he redeemed himself for the horrific "Austin Powers in Goldmember".
I had no idea how convoluted and poorly-handled the 2000 presidential
election in Florida really was until seeing this movie. I remember that
there were comments in the news about hanging chads, etc., but did not
know about all of the legal and other issues that are revealed in the
movie. It makes you wonder about all elections in all counties and
states, on any issue.
It was absolutely riveting the entire way through--just when you think it was going one way, there would be a reversal. Fictional movies wish they had this many plot twists. My least favorite topic, normally, is politics, so for this movie to make an election in one state riveting, is saying a lot.
The performances were excellent, particularly by Kevin Spacey. The dialog and performances were so natural, it was almost like a documentary.
Great job by all!
Recount goes over familiar territory, and for some it will be like
opening up a wound that's been covered for several years only to find
the pus is still fresh and rotten. Whether you're a democrat or
republican- for the latter, of course, your man "won" in the end- a lot
of the details in the story of the Florida electoral results in the
2000 Presidential election just flat out stink of corruption and
mismanagement. It displays a failure on the part of what should be a
somewhat reliable process in an already faulty system (i.e. electoral
college, besides the point). What lessons can be taken from the Florida
story? Pretty much the story, and the film, acts as a referendum on how
things can get so (bleeped), on each party side- democrats not strong
enough in the fight at crucial beats, republicans acting like bullies-
and the only hope is that it never gets this wretched again.
Whatever thoughts on the issues one will have, it's a worthwhile TV movie based just on the cast alone. Director Jay Roach, usually responsible for silly comedies like Austin Powers and Meet the Parents, tackles the drama with a firm hand (if not the sturdiest camera- hand held of course) on his large group of thespians. Kevin Spacey hasn't been this good in years, and Leary is a welcome presence as a Gore campaign member. Also very noteworthy are small parts for John Hurt, Ed Begley Jr, Bruce McGill. But best of all are Laura Dern in a harrowingly funny turn as dumb-bell Katherine Harris and Tom Wilkinson as tough lawyer James Baker, who comes off as icy as one might expect playing a loyal cadre of the Bush family. They make the movie compulsively watchable, even as the details of the case- the dimple chads, the discrimination, the BS protester problem in Miami-Dade, and ultimately the ruling of the supreme court- make one very sick about the madness unraveling.
I could not turn away from this movie- not because the outcome was
unclear or because I was unfamiliar with the events (I took a class in
college the next year entirely dedicated to this debacle) I just found
the acting so compelling.
The actors did a fantastic job- they created tension even when I knew what the Supreme Court would say- If you are a political junkie and have not been drinking from your respective party's kool-aid jug for too long you will enjoy this movie.
Those that take offense to this film clearly are delusional about their party or candidates- they can't acknowledge that their side will go to the same lengths as the other guy to win- Recount is not a social commentary on voter fraud- it is a behind the scenes look at the recount teams for Gore and Bush and how they strategized and plotted to WIN-
That does not mean Recount seeks to establish who WON the election- only that there were two camps who wanted to, which we already knew before the vote was so ridiculously close. And I don't see how the film could have done a better job showing us this-
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.
Jay Roach (the "Austin Power" series, "Meet the Parents") doesn't seem the right director for a political-driven movie about one of the most controversial elections ever, but he did a good job in charge of this well-executed HBO production. "Recount" features solid performances all around, particularly Kevin Spacey as Ron Klain (Al Gore's recount point man) and Tom Wilkinson as James Baker (Bush's top recount strategist); Laura Dern seemed to have fun playing the ridiculously clueless (and potentially malevolent) Katherine Harris (Florida's Secretary of State), the woman who stopped the recount. The movie works for being wittily unbiased (Spacey's outburst scene: "You know what's funny? I don't even know if I like Al Gore... I just wanna know who actually won this f***ing election!" is pivotal, and his last conversation with Wilkinson/Baker is also a great point) and informative for those who have short-term memory (or were too young 8 years ago). We all know how it's gonna end, and the movie doesn't have the pretension of answering eternal questions like "Who really won the election and would have Al Gore been a better president?" We'll most likely never know the first, and can just wonder about the second. For better or worse, things would've been different had Bush lost, that's for sure. It might not be a solace, but that's the only truth we have, and the makers of "Recount" seem to be aware of that. 7.5/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have been studying and writing about elections and election fraud for several years. I studied the 2000 Florida election in great detail, writing a chapter in my book, "Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? Exit Polls, Election Fraud, and the Official Count" (Seven Stories Press, 2006), on the subject: "Chapter 2. Florida sets the Stage in 2000." Recount dramatizes the count-the-ballots battle in Florida after the 2000 election. In my experience, reporting on events about which I am knowledgeable often barely resemble the reality because of errors, shortcuts and important omissions which seem inevitably to be part of the process. But I saw no errors or inaccuracies at all in Recount. Everything and everyone was portrayed consistent with my understanding of what happened and the actual behavior of the cast of characters. Moreover, they amazingly touch on every important point despite the standard length film time and story-line constraints. It's obvious that extraordinary effort went into researching what happened and crafting the story-lines. Finally, it's a momentous, high drama, tightly told and cut with many powerful scenes, including the final scene of (uncounted) ballots sitting in boxes in a warehouse. The acting is as good as it gets. Whether or not you think you already know what happened, this is a highly compelling film.
If you thought a movie about the controversial 2000 Presidential
campaign recount in Florida, you're wrong. Just when you think it's
some crazy movie, you recall that it all really happened. At times,
only the CNN footage reminds us that it really did happen. The drama
and gravitas of the story should not be lost, but is, upon Americans.
The movie not only accurately portrays actual events, but notes their
context and their importance to American history, an analysis that many
have already so soon forgotten.
The star-filled cast's fame does not disservice or overshadow the characters they portray, a fine balance of talent and respect. Special note, however, must be paid to Laura Dern's awe-inspiring role as the aloof, artificial Secretary of State, Katherine Harris. Despite makeup which makes prostitutes jealous, her mannerisms and uncanny slanted poise cause incredulous disbelief that such a wacky imitation could be enacted. All the cast, however, is likewise surrealistically convincing.
The hard working, late hours, and soul-sucking reality of working in a campaign office, often a suite rented out of a strip shopping mall with temporary desks and phone lines cheaply laid in for only a few months' time, is evident and pervasive. Such atmospheres lend the movie a realistic feel of grassroots-level work. One is likely to develop a profound respect for the idealism and vigor (or ego) of such volunteers with such spartan environments.
Music is not even necessary as the chaotic, meaningless buzz of a campaign office or the silent seriousness of a limo ride are soundtracks in and of themselves. The seriousness of the situation does not let the viewer go for the entire movie's arc, from the movie's opening seconds when an elderly lady's seemingly innocent action will cause screaming suspended disbelief in all viewers alike. The tension continues for over an hour more, frustrating and terrifying viewers until an ending whose frustration compares with few other feelings. Even typically dry court readings gain an impossible level of drama, tension, and emotional disbelief to the point of tears as the movie progresses through the increasingly unbelievable tale. The dirty tactics are unsurprising, given recent politics, but to witness the beginnings of the such era in retrospective is humbling. The animosity of the foes is tempered with a thin grasp on reality and humanity, summoned by powers eluding most of us common lay men and women.
The film is so accurate and nearly documentary which is suitable for those of all political persuasions. The far more important point is the preservation of the Union and our ability to pass power peacefully and civilly. Affairs even weightier than party affiliation are at stake. The movie is trying on the heart and mind as it begs us to question how insane the electoral system is, a view with which those of all political persuasions may likely agree. Nonetheless, the system somehow survived to live another day, a day that will again return.
There are two immutable facts that were brought out in this excellent
film: one, Florida looked absolutely ridiculous in the way they
conducted elections; and two, the 2000 election was absolutely stolen.
Florida will forever be stigmatized by butterfly ballots and hanging chads. The fact that election officials in some sixteen counties refused to do the machine recount as ordered shows the incompetency of our officials.
The recount notwithstanding, the manipulation of the voter roles and the subsequent disenfranchisement of 20,000 voters by the clownish Katherine Harris, played perfectly by Laura Dern, casts a permanent stain on the legitimacy of the Bush presidency.
The fact that the details of this movie were well known did not detract one bit from its enjoyment. It was compelling and exciting and the performances of stars like Kevin Spacey, Tom Wilkinson, and Dern made you forget that you knew the ending.
The incredible mess of an election in year 2000, forever altered the worlds perception of the USA. The ridiculous fact that you can lose the election with the majority of the votes would be enough, but when the courts decide the winner, it is hard to sustain the self-deluding image of the last great Western democracy. Even if we make allowances for the artistic liberty, this smart political movie clearly shows the dire predicament in which we found ourselves. The extreme closeness of this race forced us to face the inadequacies in our system. Sadly, 10 years later almost nothing changed. The ship is sinking, and the rats will soon be leaving.
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