In a Sunday review of the HBO film "Recount," Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales raves over the film, and over how much greater America would have been with President Gore:
If the mess in Florida had been resolved with as much skill and savvy as went into the making of the movie, the world might be a different place today -- presumably a better one, although no one can say for sure.
Little or nothing is ever accomplished by games of what-if, but it's hard to resist speculating how history, and not just political history, might have been different since the year 2000 with regard to such monumental events as the reaction to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11; response to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina; and the war in Iraq, including whether there would have been one and whether a single American life would have been lost.
Unlike Kurtz, Shales has no problem with inventions in the "docudrama" script, dismissing the subject late in his review with the notion that while "the authenticity of the film may not be beyond reproach...its version of events certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt," considering the "impeccability" of script consultants like CNN's Jeffrey Toobin. For Shales, this movie teaches a vitally important lesson about Republican malfeasance:
Placed under a figurative high-def microscope and examined studiously but at a riveting pace, "Recount" recounts in brisk and crisp docudrama style how Gore was pushed aside even after winning the national popular vote -- a defeat marked by bungling, bumbling and seemingly malicious mischief in the state of Florida. The film is a clarifying cautionary tale that concedes both that full clarification is probably impossible and that cautionary warnings could well go unheeded as early as November.
There are so many lessons to be learned, but there is so little precedent for the proverbial powers that be actually learning them.
Then comes the Shales whopper about the 9/11-free Gore presidency, followed by Shales entertaining the notion that this film could have been more helpful if it were made earlier:
Writer Danny Strong tells the story with enviable skill and artful urgency. He makes such a good case for the seriousness of the situation -- even though it is laced with self-satirizing farce -- that some viewers might want to ask him, "Where were you eight years ago?" The film would have had a perhaps more practical, tangible effect if done closer to the time of the imbroglio depicted.
I’m guessing that Shales means if it had come out before the Bush re-election effort in 2004, perhaps Kerry could have been elected to undo the alleged injustice committed by Bush villains in Florida. But like a TV critic, he then notes it’s not up to filmmakers to right wrongs and reform elections:
The filmmakers put the story up there on the screen, with its alternately hideous and hilarious details skillfully articulated, and they certainly cast megawatts of illuminating light, but it's up to the audience what to do with it.
Shales ends his review by suggesting it's "history with a vengeance," painful to watch, especially considering the "dreadful, bloody crashes" that Bush committed, and Gore presumably would have adroitly avoided:
Although "Recount" is a smashing success on almost every level, it's also a brutally disheartening experience for the story it tells. It's history with a vengeance, tumbling out at you in a way that demands attention, no matter how badly you may want to withhold it -- a trip down a Memory Lane full of potholes, roadblocks, fender benders and dreadful, bloody crashes.