|Written by||Danny Strong|
|Directed by||Jay Roach|
Ed Begley, Jr.
|Theme music composer||Dave Grusin|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Running time||116 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Spring Creek Productions|
|Original release||May 25, 2008|
Recount is a 2008 television film about the 2000 United States presidential election. The political drama was written by Danny Strong, directed by Jay Roach, and produced by Michael Haussman. It premiered on HBO on May 25, 2008. The DVD was released on August 19, 2008.
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.
In April 2007, it was announced that Sydney Pollack was going to be the film's director. By August, weeks away from the start of principal photography, Pollack withdrew from the project due to a then-undisclosed illness. Pollack died of cancer on May 26, 2008, one day after Recount premiered on HBO. Director Jay Roach replaced Pollack.
The film was filmed mostly in Tallahassee, Florida. Many scenes were shot in city hall, the federal courthouse, and in front of the Florida Capitol building. Other scenes were shot on location on November 3 and 4, 2007, inside the actual courtroom of the Florida Supreme Court building and outside its front exterior in Tallahassee. Some scenes were filmed in Jacksonville, Florida. This was the first time a Chief Justice of Florida, in this case R. Fred Lewis at the request of Craig Waters, granted permission for the filming of a major motion picture on the Court's property.
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Awards and nominations
2008 Emmy Awards:
- Won: Outstanding Made for Television Movie
- Won: Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special (Jay Roach)
- Won: Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries or Movie
- Nominated: Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries or Movie
- Nominated: Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie, or Special
- Nominated: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie (Kevin Spacey and Tom Wilkinson)
- Nominated: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie (Bob Balaban and Denis Leary)
- Nominated: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie (Laura Dern)
- Nominated: Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special
2009 66th Golden Globe Awards:
- Won: Laura Dern - Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
- Nominated: Denis Leary - Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
- Nominated: Tom Wilkinson - Best Actor in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television
- Nominated: Kevin Spacey - Best Actor in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television
- Nominated: Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
- Won: Jay Roach - Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television/Miniseries
- Won: Danny Strong - Best Writing in Long Form - Original
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. 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 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."
...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.'
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.
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