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"Recount" Isn't All Fact, But It Is All Entertaining

Some Democrats who have seen, or read the script of, HBO’s Sunday telemovie Recount have complained that this fact-based comedy-drama about the 2000 presidential election, and its overtime fight for vote counts and recounts in key counties in Florida, paints some member of Al Gore’s team as ineffectual, and suggests the Republican side had the scrappier fighters.

Some Republicans with advance access to the telemovie or its script say much the same thing – except they’re not complaining.

My only problem with Recount is that screenwriter Danny Strong goes out of his way to concoct out of his own imagination some significant lines of dialogue, and even some entire key scenes, when hewing more closely to verifiable facts and events would have served just fine.  You don’t need to embellish this story. On its own, with its dimpled or hanging chad, its unprecedented U.S. Supreme Court ruling, and such cartoonish characters as Florida secretary of state Katherine Harris, Recount had plenty to work with.

That said, this movie is enlivened by a strong, delightful cast. Tom Wilkinson, arriving straight from playing Benjamin Franklin on HBO’s John Adams, makes for a formidable James Baker III, and Kevin Spacey, as Al Gore’s former chief of staff Ron Klain, plays the type of world-weary political lifer who would have been right at home on The West Wing, if not in it.

Laura Dern, as Harris, provides entertainingly exasperating comic/tragic relief, and the well-cast movie (Spacey is a producer, which must have helped rally these troops) includes Bob Balaban, Ed Begley Jr., John Hurt and Denis Leary. As a bonus, we also get actual election-night coverage from the networks, which is no less startling in retrospect.

Don’t take all the facts and scenes in Recount as gospel, but do watch it. Spoiler alert: Gore loses.