Written by TV


Recount is a star-studded new HBO film that aired in the US on Sunday evening, based around the farcical procedings in Florida during the 2000 Presidential election.
It’s easily the best drama I’ve seen this year.
The cast is phenomenal: Kevin Spacey plays Ron Klein, Al Gore’s former Chief of Staff, and the lead Democrat during the procedings that took in hanging chad(s), complicated and ridiculous issues of Florida State election law, and an unprecedented set of findings from the Supreme Court. Then there’s Denis Leary as Michael Whouley as Gore’s Chief Field Operative, Ed Begley Jr. as David Boies, the lead Democrat lawyer.
Two British actors play the initial key figures with John Hurt giving another fine performance as Warren Christopher, while Tom Wilkinson gives us a wonderfully scary James Baker who runs the Republican camp.
In 2000, in Britain we sat back and watched agog, as the machinations of the world’s only superpower unravelled in a painful, and at times complex manner. This film does a wonderful job of taking us through the steps that history took. This is not always easy stuff to follow, and the script has to be quite expository at times for us to understand what’s going on.
The nature of making a film about recent history is that everyone will find it easy to criticise, with undoubtedly invented dialogue, simplifications and characters being given dramatic impetus for the sake of a drama where perhaps there was none initially. Howard Kurtz at the Washington Post, gives us most of these examples.
But to my mind, they don’t really matter, because while some individuals may object to their portrayal, the overall tone is right, and we really shouldn’t forget what a fiasco the whole situation was. Actually “fiasco” isn’t nearly a strong enough term. There was utter incompetence at play, with thousands of voters denied the right to vote due to Katherine Harris’s uselessness (she had a company
If I did have a criticism, it’s that sometimes the brilliant minds at work here are only portrayed as realising what their next step was after the previous one had played out. That provides the viewer with a dynamic – they’ve lost. But hang on! What if… They back up and running! You feel that perhaps, like a good chess player, the personnel involved were surely thinking several steps in advance.
That said, events did play out in that manner. The film makes great use of archival footage as the world watched on while recounts were stopped, started, stopped and postponed.
What I really liked was the clear and concise manner that Florida’s punchcard voting system was explained, with great photography/graphics.
Finally, I’ve got to say a word about Laura Dern who plays Katherine Harris, Florida’s Secretary of State. Her performance is wonderful, and brings home Harris’ love of herself, and the delight with which she finds herself in the spotlight of both America and the world. If you don’t follow US politics that closely, a glance through her Wikipedia entry is enlightening. Believe it or not, the events of that election did not end her political ambitions! Dern’s performance is undoubtedly award winning.
This is as good a poltiical film as I’ve seen for a long time – easily up there with the best episodes of the West Wing. Director Jay Roach, who’s better known for the Austin Powers films and Meet the Fockers, makes the two hours duration pass very quickly. I don’t know which UK broadcaster if any, has the rights to this, but if you like politics, you need to watch this film.