HBO's 'Recount' Movie: Favors Democrats, Harris as Cruella De Vil

An early review is in for HBO's upcoming movie, Recount, about the Bush-Gore battle in Florida after 2000 election. Gillian Flynn in Entertainment Weekly, which like HBO is part of the Time-Warner family, has described the film, to premiere next Sunday night, as tilted against the Republican characters.

In her review in the May 23 edition of the magazine, Flynn asserted: “Recount may not be downright blue, but it's not as purply as it wants to appear.” Saying “Recount is an underdog story, and thus a Democrat story,” Flynn reported that the “Republican players here are coolly calculating -- Tom Wilkinson's James Baker III, the Bush team quarterback -- or they teeter on the edge of madness, like Laura Dern's Katherine Harris.” In fact, in an interview elsewhere, the writer of the movie slammed Harris as “a fraud.” [Screen shot is of Dern as Harris]

Flynn awarded the film an A-, but concluded with caution about its imbalance:

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. While George W. Bush, like Gore, is only vaguely glimpsed, the remaining Republican players here are coolly calculating -- Tom Wilkinson's James Baker III, the Bush team quarterback -- or they teeter on the edge of madness, like Laura Dern's Katherine Harris. With flaming lipstick and helmet hair, Dern nails the Florida secretary of state's looks, cadence, and carriage to a disturbing degree, and she runs with Harris' Cruella De Vil vibe: At one point, before a press conference, Dern morphs her face from that of a human being into Harris' crazy-cuckoo public mask, and the moment is absolutely chilling. Fair? Debatable, but like Recount, it's a gorgeous bit of political theater.
That portrayal is not so surprising if you read an interview with the writer of the movie, Danny Strong, posted by HBO. Strong declared he “didn't understand why there wasn't a state-wide hand recount of the ballots in an election this close, in which there were uncounted ballots,” called the U.S. Supreme Court's eventual decision a “shame” because it was 5-4 and insisted that “like a lot of people, I felt that Katherine Harris appeared to be somewhat of a fraud at the time.”

Excerpts from Strong's comments:
....I was really frustrated and disgusted with the whole thing because I didn't understand why there wasn't a state-wide hand recount of the ballots in an election this close, in which there were uncounted ballots. It still makes no sense to me, and I know as much about the recount as a person can know. It's very obvious what needs to happen if it's down to 327 votes and there are 175,000 ballots that the machines have registered as non-votes. The laws of Florida say that you do a hand recount. In most states in the union, that's the law. That was the law in Texas; George Bush himself signed that into law. I didn't understand why Al Gore had only requested recounts in four counties. And I didn't understand the Republicans trying to do everything they could to block the recounts....

I had heard that the Florida Supreme Court was going to count the whole state and I thought, "Well finally!" And then I heard that the U.S. Supreme Court had shut it down! And I thought, "Well, maybe there's a reason, and I really hope it's a unanimous decision." And then when the decision was five-four, I remember thinking, "God, what a shame this is." I wasn't particularly suspicious of anyone. Like a lot of people, I felt that Katherine Harris appeared to be somewhat of a fraud at the time. But then I moved on with my life, like the rest of the country....
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center