48 of 54 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
What exactly went on behind the scenes of the 2000 election voting disaster, the one that decided the fates of Al Gore and George W. Bush? The HBO film "Recount" gives what I believe to be a fair representation of an historical event, which is ironic since the recount process put the very concept of fairness under intense scrutiny. We obviously all have an opinion on who rightfully won the presidency eight years ago, but I'm not here to debate who was right and who was wrong; I wasn't even old enough to vote back in the year 2000. I'm only here to review a movie. Yes, it tackles a political subject, but that doesn't mean it takes a definite political stance--generally speaking, each side has equal say, and not surprisingly, each side makes valid and not-so-valid points. Writer Danny Strong deserves a lot of praise, not only for showing both sides of the political spectrum, but also for not forcing us to agree with any side in particular.
I have no doubt the recount was more exhausting for those running the campaigns, simply because they were doing all the hard work; both candidates did nothing more than wait for the end result. Overseeing much of Gore's campaign was his former Chief of Staff, Ron Klain (Kevin Spacey), a loyal Democrat embittered after being replaced, first by Tony Coelho, then by Bill Daley (Mitch Pileggi). On election day--November 7--the Gore team gets word of a problem in Palm Beach County, Florida: a number of voters, confused by the ballot voting system, felt they had accidentally voted for Independent Pat Buchanan. This led to a number of TV networks receiving differing poll numbers by the end of the day, some confirming Gore's victory, others confirming Bush's. Hours of retractions and projections paved the way for a statewide machine recount, which meant that Gore was not yet willing to concede.
But problems arose with the machine recounts, mostly the fact that most voting centers were not willing to run the ballots through the machines a second time. They only re-tabulated the results saved on the machines' memory cards. At a certain point, machine recounts no longer seemed viable because of chads, those infamous bits of paper punched out of voting ballots. If the chad was left hanging, the machine could potentially push it back into the hole and read it as a non-vote. The same would be true of a dimpled chad (a chad not punched all the way through). Democratic strategists opted for a hand recount, believing it would more accurately reveal the voters' intentions. Klain and his team demanded the ballots be recounted in the four Florida counties likely to have voted Democratic: Broward, Miami-Dade, Volusa, and Palm Beach.
This set into motion an absolute legal nightmare. Secretary of State Katherine Harris (Laura Dern)--a staunch Bush supporter--immediately oversaw the certification process for the recount, refusing to extend the November 14 deadline despite the need for more time. With the help of former Secretary of State James Baker (Tom Wilkinson), Harris and her Republican advisors announced that hand recounts were not allowed, thus suspending the entire recount process. It wasn't long before the Democrats discovered something interesting: according to Texas law--signed by Bush when he was Governor--hand recounts are preferred over machine recounts, and a dimpled chad does count as a vote. But this begs the question: Why would an out-of-state law have any bearing on the Florida recount, even if it was signed by the potential President Elect?
And what about military ballots? Should they have counted at all? Keep in mind that they weren't given postmarks, signatures, or dates, meaning there was no way to prove they had been sent in before the deadline. Klain's attempts to keep these ballots out of the recount were thwarted as soon as Joseph Lieberman, Gore's running mate, publicly insisted that they be counted; at that point, it seemed less and less likely that Gore would win the election. Even when an African American pastor came forward as part of a voter purge list (simply for having a similar name to a convicted felon), little could be done to stop the inevitable. Never mind the fact that the list contained 20,000 illegal rejections, half of which were from the black population; the U.S. Supreme Court still decided to order a stay of Florida's undercounted ballots.
Of course, there has to be that final moment when Gore quotes a wise man: "I have to end this war when I know I can't win." He says this to Klain over the phone, officially backing down and letting Bush have the presidency. It's a somber moment to be sure, although I'm hard pressed to say that the entire point of "Recount" was for the audience to mourn Gore's loss and condemn Bush's victory. For the most part, the film's liberal and conservative perspectives are nicely balanced. In one scene, for example, Warren Christopher (John Hurt) says, "There's no shame in placing country above party," and that's a little too pacifistic for Klain's taste. Indeed, Christopher took the path of least resistance during the early stages of the recount, and he left before anything was resolved. By the time a resolution is reached, Michael Whouley (Denis Leary) walks with Klain and asks, "If W had asked for a recount, would the Supreme Court have stopped it?" What a thought-provoking question. If only it could be answered.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Like the " movie Titanic" we all know how this one is going to end. But don't let that stop you from watching Recount. Spacey, as always, delivers a believable and realistic performance. His presence somehow demands your attention. Laura Dern is completely transformed and becomes Kathleen Harris, the Florida Secretary of State. Her performance is by far the best.
There are details and personality involvements that even the most politically active person was probably not aware of that the production reveals, making it worth your time and attention. No matter how many hours you watched CNN when this historical drama unfolded, you will learn things about the Florida recount that you did not know.
If you are a history buff, you will want to add this to your collection. It is right up there with "Missiles of October."
20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
You can count on anything Kevin Spacey does as great, but the big surprise in this movie was Laura Dern playing Katherine Harris. She was outstanding as the Florida Secretary of State.
The movie does a great job of showing what went on behind the scenes, including the strategies of both sides, that led to the final outcome. (I guess I don't need to worry about disclosing the ending.)
If you watch this movie and still think we live in a democratic country, you need to see it again.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
HBO movie about the Florida voting recount in the 2000 presidential election. Especially hard to watch if you're a Democrat, it stirs up frustrations that you thought you had long buried and forgotten. Given the apparent dryness of the material, it's surprising how well this zips along, and with a good balance of comedy and drama. Special marks to Laura Dern for her incredible portrayal of Katherine Harris!
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This movie is incredibly painful to watch. Anyone who lived through the 2000 election will remember what happened in broad strokes -- corruption, possible fraud, extreme partisanship and cronyism, and disenfranchisement on a scale that creates fond nostalgia for Jim Crow. However those broad strokes are here shown in rage-inducing, fully restored technicolor detail as every single step of a process that resulted in what some people still see as a stolen election is put on display.
Old wounds die hard, and even after 8 years and "A New Hope" on the horizon, it's impossible for any politically conscious person to watch this movie silently. Frustration boils over again and again at tactics from both sides of the aisle, and you may eventually have to put on a hat to prevent yourself from tearing every strand of your hair out. Even though we all know how this story ended, the movie is so well-written that it all feels fresh and current even now. Dramatically, that's a great thing. In all other respects though, it just makes your blood boil. In fact, I nearly gave the movie four stars until it occurred to me that what I had a problem with was the real events, not the movie. And in fact, only a great movie could make you think this critically about the real events on which it's based.
Danny Strong shockingly pulled off his first script to perfection, which is a coup for any young writer but particularly surprising for someone who is an actor perhaps best known as the geek from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." He brings to light the myriad ways in which a single decision, action or chance event could have changed history completely. There are so many occasions in this film when I felt like I was watching a horror movie, screaming for the hero to turn around, run away or stay out of the basement. The cast is what makes these 8-year-old bad choices seem so relevant again. Kevin Spacey, Dennis Leary and Tom Wilkinson are excellent. (So are Laura Dern and Bob Balaban, but I hated the characters/real people so much that it's difficult for me to get past that and give the actors the praise they're due.) Ed Begley Jr. is also quite good, though it's weird to see him in a straight dramatic role. After seeing him play so many hilarious parts in Christopher Guest's ensemble mockumentaries, I kept expecting him to turn to the camera and make a dry, hilariously off-hand remark.
The extras include two interviews with actual participants from each side of the fight conducted by the actors who played them, a short featurette on the movie and the location filming in Florida and a commentary with the writer and director. I haven't had a chance to listen to the commentary yet, but I'm hoping that since Danny Strong spent so much time interviewing the real participants, he'll have a lot more anecdotes and stories that simply couldn't be fit into the script. As for the interviews, I only wish they were longer.
Any student of political science will want to see this movie, and every American voter probably SHOULD see this movie. Some might say that there's nothing to be gained by dwelling on the past, but looking back at this all-too-recent period in modern history should be a wake-up call about the flaws in our system, both legal and political. Only when enough Americans truly wake up to this will we be able to make any real changes. Until that time, people like the ones depicted here --ALL OF WHOM ARE REAL, LIVING BREATHING PEOPLE AND **NOT** FICTIONAL CREATIONS -- will continue to manipulate the system to their own will, which will be that of whatever political party they happen to be aligned with and have nothing whatsoever to do with justice, fairness or morality.
The truth is, that fact alone should classify this as a horror movie. It's an extremely terrifying portrait of the potential future for this country.