Recount (film)

Recount
Official poster
GenrePolitical drama
Written byDanny Strong
Directed byJay Roach
Starring
Music byDave Grusin
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Production
Executive producers
ProducerMichael Haussman
CinematographyJim Denault
EditorAlan Baumgarten
Running time116 minutes
Production companies
Original release
NetworkHBO
ReleaseMay 25, 2008 (2008-05-25)

Recount is a 2008 political drama television film about Florida's vote recount during the 2000 United States presidential election. Written by Danny Strong and directed by Jay Roach, the television film stars Kevin Spacey, Bob Balaban, Ed Begley Jr., Laura Dern, John Hurt, Denis Leary, Bruce McGill, and Tom Wilkinson. It premiered on HBO on May 25, 2008. The television film was nominated for eleven Primetime Emmy Awards, winning three for Outstanding Made for Television Movie, Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special (for Roach), and Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries or a Movie (for Baumgarten). It was also nominated for five Golden Globe Awards and winning Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film (for Dern).

Plot

Recount chronicles the 2000 U.S. presidential election Bush v. Gore case between Governor of Texas George W. Bush and U.S. Vice President Al Gore. It begins with the election on November 7 and ends with the Supreme Court ruling, which stopped the Florida election recount on December 12.

Key points depicted include: Gore's retraction of his personal telephone concession to Bush in the early hours of November 8; the decision by the Gore campaign to sue for hand recounts in Democratic strongholds where voting irregularities were alleged, especially in light of the statistical dead heat revealed by the reported machine recount; Republican pressure on Florida's Secretary of State Katherine Harris in light of her legally mandated responsibilities; the attention focused on the hand recounts by media, parties, and the public; the two major announcements by Florida Supreme Court spokesman Craig Waters extending the deadline for returns in the initial recount (November 21, 2000) and ordering a statewide recount of votes (December 8, 2000), and later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court; and finally the adversarial postures of the Supreme Courts of Florida and the United States, as well as the dissenting opinions among the higher court's justices.

Cast

Production

Director

In April 2007, it was announced that Sydney Pollack would direct the film. By August, weeks away from the start of principal photography, Pollack withdrew from the project due to a then-undisclosed illness, and was replaced by Jay Roach. Pollack died of cancer on May 26, 2008, one day after Recount premiered on HBO.

Casting

On September 24, 2007, it was announced that Kevin Spacey would star as Ron Klain.

Filming

Recount was shot in Jacksonville and Tallahassee, Florida.

Reception

Reviews

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 78%, based on 18 reviews, and an average rating of 6.4/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Recount deftly brings a controversial chapter of electoral history to dramatic life with a compelling cast, although some viewers may take issue with its conclusions." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 66 out of 100, based on 25 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Mark Moorman of Het Parool, gave the film a rating of four stars on a scale of five, calling Recount an "amazing and funny reconstruction".

Response to fictionalization

Some critics have made charges of bias against the film. Entertainment Weekly wrote, "Recount may not be downright blue, but it's not as purply as it wants to appear. Despite its equal time approach, Recount is an underdog story, and thus a Democrat story." Film critic Roger Ebert disputed claims of bias in his review of the film, stating, "You might assume the movie is pro-Gore and anti-Bush, but you would not be quite right."

In an interview with CNN's Reliable Sources, director Jay Roach responded that the film, "wasn't 100 percent accurate, but it was very true to what went on. ... That's what dramatizations do: stitch together the big ideas with, sometimes, constructs that have to stand for a larger truth." Roach cited All the President's Men as an example. Jake Tapper, an ABC newscaster who was a consultant for the film also stated in response that the film is "a fictional version of what happened" and "tilts to the left because it's generally told from the point of view of the Democrats." The Washington Post further stated that Tapper noted that "while some scenes and language are manufactured, 'a lot of dialogue is not invented, a lot of dialogue is taken from my book, other books and real life.' "

Florida Supreme Court

Florida Supreme Court spokesman Craig Waters agreed that the script departed from the actual statements he made on live television from the courthouse steps in the fall of 2000. "But the words spoken by the actor who played me [Alex Staggs]," Waters said, "are accurate paraphrasis of the things I actually said or of the documents released by the court at the time."

Warren Christopher, who was sent by Gore to supervise the recount, has objected to his portrayal in the film. According to the San Jose Mercury News, Christopher:

... has not seen the film, but he read transcripts of scenes featuring his character, who is portrayed as a high-minded but naive statesman. In one scene, Christopher, played by John Hurt, suggests to former Secretary of State James Baker, who was spearheading Bush's Florida legal team, that they try to resolve the recount through 'diplomacy and compromise.' 'That's absurd,' Christopher says. 'Both Baker and I knew this would be a fight to the end that only one side could win.'

Baker agreed that the film exaggerated his rival's stance: "He's not that much of a wuss," said Matea Gold of the San Jose Mercury News.

Democratic strategist Michael Whouley has objected to the amount of swearing he does in the film, and was also uncomfortable with a scene involving a broken chair.

In contrast, Bush legal advisers James Baker and Benjamin Ginsberg have largely given the film good reviews; Baker even hosted his own screening of it, though he does refer to the film as a "Hollywood rendition" of what happened.

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2008
Artios Awards Outstanding Achievement in Casting – Television Movie David Rubin, Richard Hicks, Lori S. Wyman, and
Kathleen Chopin
Won
Online Film & Television Association Awards Best Motion Picture Nominated
Best Actor in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Kevin Spacey Nominated
Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Tom Wilkinson Won
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Laura Dern Nominated
Best Direction of a Motion Picture or Miniseries Jay Roach Nominated
Best Writing of a Motion Picture or Miniseries Danny Strong Nominated
Best Editing in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Made for Television Movie Paula Weinstein, Len Amato, Sydney Pollack,
Jay Roach, and Michael Hausman
Won
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Kevin Spacey Nominated
Tom Wilkinson Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Bob Balaban Nominated
Denis Leary Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie Laura Dern Nominated
Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special Jay Roach Won
Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special Danny Strong Nominated
Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries or Movie Patti Podesta, Christopher Tandon, and Radha Mehta Nominated
Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie or Special David Rubin, Richard Hicks, Lori S. Wyman, and
Kathleen Chopin
Nominated
Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries or a Movie Alan Baumgarten Won
Satellite Awards Best Motion Picture Made for Television Nominated
Best Actor in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television Kevin Spacey Nominated
Tom Wilkinson Nominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television Laura Dern Nominated
2009
American Cinema Editors Awards Best Edited Miniseries or Motion Picture for Non-Commercial Television Alan Baumgarten Won
American Film Institute Awards Top 10 Television Programs Won
Art Directors Guild Awards Excellence in Production Design Award – Television Movie or Mini-series Patti Podesta, Christopher Tandon, Kim Lincoln,
Herman McEachin, John E. Thombleson II, and
Anuradha Mehta
Nominated
Cinema Audio Society Awards Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for Television Movies and Miniseries Gary Alper, Gary C. Bourgeois, and Greg Orloff Nominated
Critics' Choice Awards Best Picture Made for Television Nominated
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television or Miniseries Jay Roach Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Miniseries or Television Film Nominated
Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Kevin Spacey Nominated
Tom Wilkinson Nominated
Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Denis Leary Nominated
Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Laura Dern Won
Producers Guild of America Awards David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television Paula Weinstein, Len Amato, Sydney Pollack,
Jay Roach, and Michael Hausman
Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Kevin Spacey Nominated
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Laura Dern Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards Long Form – Original Danny Strong Won

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