Directed by: Jay Roach
Premise: A dramatization of the legal battle over the 2000 presidential election and discrepancies in voting counts in Florida.
What Works: Recount is a terrific example of dramatizing recent historical events and making a very entertaining piece of work out of it. Although viewers are well aware of who won, the film is able to create suspense by focusing on the how and letting the passions of the characters emotionally invest the viewers in the result. Like a lot of dramatizations of recent historical events, Recount cuts between reenactments by actors and footage of the actual events. The film does this very smartly, merging them within dramatized scenes and at other points recreating particular images that are iconic of the events involved. The picture is told primarily from the point of view of Ron Klein (Kevin Spacey), one of the leaders of Al Gore’s campaign and later the General Counsel of Gore’s Recount Committee. Although the film takes a side in its story construction, the film does not demonize the other side but rather shows how both Republicans and Democrats played politics and attempted to direct the recount in their favor. Tom Wilkinson stars as James Baker and his conflict with Klein is aggressive but also cordial, which is the overall message of the film; law ruled the day despite an extremely volatile situation that very nearly erupted into violence at several points. The other overarching goal of the film is to take viewers through the ins and outs of election laws and this actually makes for exasperating comedy as the two sides dig up conflicting and in some cases ludicrous laws governing the recount. This is epitomized by Laura Dern’s performance as Katherine Harris, a woman who was well intended but intellectually unequipped to deal with the complexity of the situation she was flung into. The laughs generated from the legal wrangling play into the tension because they create further obstacles for the protagonist and escalate the conflict.
What Doesn’t: The film mostly keeps Al Gore and George W. Bush out of the film except for voiceover actors playing them in phone calls with the other performers. The voiceover work isn’t very good and nudges the viewer out of the film. It’s a small complaint in what is otherwise a great film.
DVD extras: Commentary and featurettes.
Bottom Line: Recount is a terrific film that dramatizes recent history and uses the procedure of law to further the entertainment value of the film rather than drown the audience in exposition.
Episode: #212 (November 2, 2008)