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HBO's "Recount": Enjoy It, But Don't Mistake It for a Documentary
May 23, 2008  | By David Bianculli
 

Recount-May-25-chad.jpgSince HBO is repeating yesterday's Recount telemovie tonight at 9 p.m. ET, I decided to give myself a holiday and repeat yesterday's blog as well -- and run my review of Recount all over again. Which makes it, I guess, a re-Recount...

HBO's Recount, a new telemovie about the 2000 presidential election and the fight for votes in the pivotal state of Florida, is a perfect subject for a TV drama. The subject makes you want to tune in, and the cast -- led by Kevin Spacey, Tom Wilkinson, Denis Leary and Laura Dern -- makes it an even more mouthwatering prospect.

No question, Sunday's comedy-drama (9 p.m. ET) is a fun film to watch. Spacey, as Ron Klain, carries the Democratic side of things with alternating flashes of humor and frustration, and Wilkinson -- fresh from playing Benjamin Franklin in HBO's John Adams -- spearheads the Republican fight as James Baker III, and gets not only the ultimate victory (spoiler alert!), but many of the best lines.

The candidates these two men represent, Al Gore and George W. Bush, are seen only in TV footage, and heard only in phone conversations, except for a few glimpses of a stand-in "playing" Gore's back or shoulder. But early on, Recount gives us a montage of the actual election-night TV reports -- and they're priceless. That sequence, and a later scene relying heavily upon actual U.S. Supreme Court transcripts, are the best in the drama, because they're the most true.

Other scenes, like the coda in which Baker and Klain meet by accident and exchange pleasantries and opinions, seem forced. (That one is: It never happened.) Screenwriter Danny Strong does well for a first-time effort -- he's best-known as as a character actor, as Jonathan, the short-statured nerd on Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- and the chronology of events alone makes for an incredible roller-coaster of a plot.

I can't help but wonder, though, how Recount might have turned out in the hands of, say, Larry Gelbart, who did such a brilliant job writing another HBO fact-based telemovie, Barbarians at the Gate, recreating a tobacco-company takeover bid. Recount is good, and I love that HBO had the vision and daring to make it -- but, in this case as in most others, don't believe all of what you see on TV.

 

2 Comments

 

Gregg B said:

Makes me think back on that election and I get incredibly depressed. :(

Comment posted on May 23, 2008 11:49 AM


Claire VonBurgsdorff said:

I missed HBO's "Recount" when it aired in May. Is it scheduled to air again any time soon? (HBO hasn't announced a rerun date, but it'll be released on DVD August 19. -- David B.)

Comment posted on July 20, 2008 12:51 AM

 
 
 
 
 
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