EmptyAirdate: 9-11 p.m. Sunday, May 25 (HBO)
You might expect a movie about the controversial presidential vote in Florida in 2000 to have political wonk written all over it. Sure enough, HBO's "Recount" is replete with inside politics. But it also has well-written characters, first-class acting and confident directing, which produces a level of tension and suspense you wouldn’t expect in a story about a widely reported recent event.
America has had lots of close elections, but in 2000, it had been 124 years since a candidate took the White House with fewer popular votes than his opponent.
That year, it all came down to Florida's electoral votes. The initial machine count favored Bush by a few thousand votes. Gore and his designee, former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, were ready to call it quits. New evidence, however, cast doubt on the numbers. The outcome was much in doubt because of the design of the ballots, the way they were counted and a purge of voting rolls that illegally denied many a chance to vote.
Gore reversed course, turning the fight in Florida over to Ron Klain (Kevin Spacey),Gore's former chief of staff; national field director Michael Whouley (Denis Leary); and expert lawyer David Boies (Ed Begley Jr.). Directing the better-financed Bush effort were former Secretary of State James Baker (Tom Wilkinson) and national council Benjamin Ginsberg (Bob Balaban).
Writer Danny Strong, formerly an actor in "Gilmore Girls" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," plays it straight down the middle. Here are the strategies of both camps and the dueling personalities of their leaders, particularly scrappy Baker. Here, too, are the exaggerated histrionics of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris. Over the top? Absolutely, but numerous factual accounts attest to her being every bit the dingbat Laura Dern makes her out to be.
With a presidential race looming, the timing for "Recount" couldn’t be better. Meanwhile, expect to see Spacey and Wilkinson in the hunt for Emmy noms for their work here.
Production: A Spring Creek/Mirage production in association with Trigger Street Prods. and Everyman Pictures. Cast: Kevin Spacey, Bob Balaban, Ed Begley Jr. Laura Dern, John Hurt, Denis Leary, Bruce McGill, Tom Wilkinson. Executive producers: Paula Weinstein, Len Amato, Sydney Pollack, Jay Roach; Producer: Michael Hausman; Co-producer/writer: Danny Strong; Director: Jay Roach. Director of photography: Jim Denault; Production designer: Patti Podesta; Editor: Alan Baumgarten; Music: Dave Grusin; Casting: David Rubin, Richard Hinks;