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Recount (DVD Review)

10 Aug, 2008 By: John Latchem


Street 8/19/08
HBO Video
$19.98 DVD
Not rated.
Stars Kevin Spacey, Bob Balaban, Ed Begley Jr., Laura Dern, John Hurt, Denis Leary, Tom Wilkinson.

When the eyes of the world turned to Florida during the 2000 presidential election, few could have anticipated the month-long descent into legal minutiae that would help determine the outcome.

Americans unfamiliar with the workings of the Electoral College grew impatient with the impromptu civics lesson. But Recount goes a long way into exploring those procedures, showing what went wrong and taking viewers to the front lines with the campaigns that fought diligently to ensure their man would win the state and, ultimately, the presidency. The result is a microcosmic examination of the quirks of a multi-level representative democracy.

Recount does not delve into reports of irregularities from other states, or any other political maneuvers. The movie is not trying to sway opinions of what happened, nor does it pass judgment on George W. Bush's administration.

However, the film's sympathies lie with the Democrats' position, focused through Al Gore's former chief of staff, Ron Klain (Spacey). Key Republicans are portrayed as either incompetent (Katherine Harris, played whimsically by Dern) or master strategists (James Baker, expertly portrayed by Wilkinson).

The film shows both sides as hypocritical, until finally the movie sits back and asks how we as a country got to a point where such Red State/Blue State division is possible. Spacey's Klain, reflecting on the events of that fateful month, admits he doesn't even like Al Gore.

The entertaining and enlightening film is the odd product of a creative union between director Jay Roach, who directed the “Austin Powers” movies, and writer Danny Strong, who “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fans will recognize as the actor who played the nerdy Jonathan. Recount is nominated for 11 Emmys, including best TV movie and a slew of awards for its cast, director and writer.

The DVD includes a retrospective of the real events, as well as interviews with Ron Klain and Ben Ginsberg.

Surprisingly, the interviews manage to steer clear of political overtness and focus more on the historic aspects and overall strangeness of the situation. That the men are interviewed by the actors who play them is a nice touch, but a gimmick nonetheless.

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