The HBO movie "Game Change," with Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin, hasn't even aired yet (it will on March 10), but it's already stirred up more than its share of controversy.
In other words, it's much like Palin herself.
The 2008 vice-presidential nominee, who roared out of almost nowhere to instant political superstardom, was a polarizing figure from the beginning. People, it seemed, either loved her or hated her.
She had thousands of people cheering her at appearances across the country." One of her most famous quotes - "I love those hockey moms. You know what they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is? Lipstick" - lived on in red-state "Hockey Mom" bumper stickers. At the other end of the political spectrum, commentators mocked her lack of foreign-policy knowledge, and some called her "Caribou Barbie."
And Tina Fey's "Saturday Night Live" impression of Palin -- red suit, chic eyeglasses, updo and distinctive accent -- was uncanny. Now, Moore is taking her turn at capturing the appearance and essence of Palin.
In the trailer, candidate Palin is seen shouting into a phone, "I am not your puppet!" -- a reference to how everything from what she said to how she looked was scripted by campaign officials for presidential candidate John McCain. Moore says she sympathizes.
"I do think the situation she was put in was a completely untenable one," she told "The New York Post." "They were telling her what to do and how to dress and how to behave. So they take a candidate for what she is and what she represents, and they want to make her into something else." At the same time, Moore didn't pull any punches about what she thinks of Palin as a candidate for national office. "She was not qualified to be vice president," Moore told the website Politico. "I think that became quite evident during the campaign."
Palin herself, who hasn't seen the movie and doesn't intend to, put her own spin on it in an interview with Fox News Sunday. "I think we're going to call that the 'Sarah Palin Employment Act,'" she said. "You need to thank me to employing more people in their imitations of Sarah Palin than the president has put Americans to work. It is a stimulus act, goodness gracious."
The ex-governor's former aides took a harder line. "They don't want to hear anything good," Meg Stapleton, Palin's former press secretary, told reporters."We all know Palin sells and the dramatization of Palin sells even more. This is sick." John McCain called the book "Game Change," on which the movie is based, "totally unfair and untrue, especially to Sarah Palin."
Palin herself was outraged by the suggestion that she had come close to collapse during the campaign. The trailer for the movie shows McCain senior adviser Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson) saying that she's headed for a "nervous breakdown."
In her interview with Fox, Palin angrily denied that. "I was never in a funk," she said. "Thank God I have the right perspective on what really matters in life, and there is no reason to be in a funk when you know what right priorities are and what really matters."
"Game Change" director Jay Roach said he strove for factual accuracy and had emailed Palin, asking for an interview but was quickly turned down. Screenwriter Steve Strong said that besides relying on the "Game Change" book, the moviemakers also interviewed 25 people associated with the campaign, read Palin's best-selling memoir "Going Rogue" and pored over hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles.
That's undoubtedly good enough for Palin detractors, and woefully inadequate for her supporters.
So what will viewers see when they tune in to "Game Change?" A manipulative, coldly ambitious candidate? Or a hockey mom rousted from relative obscurity and thrust into a campaign that ruthlessly manipulated her? To paraphrase songwriter Paul Simon, people "hear what they want to hear and disregard the rest."
"Game Change" airs Sunday night on HBO at 9 p.m. EST.
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