I enjoyed and was very much disturbed by "Recount," the HBO film about the Florida recount in 2000, which I saw in a hotel room Monday night and then stayed up for hours, unable to fall asleep.
When I watch films or plays based on real-life events, often the fact that it's based on real events makes it more powerful to me. And as my brain gets really into the story, it starts to naively think that every little bit of it actually happened real. Which is why I worry that the writer is taking advantage of me by secretly fictionalizing the events (like in "The Great Debaters," in which apparently a lot was invented). And I rarely actually go on the internet to find out what is true, perhaps because I don't want to shatter the illusion created by the enjoyable work that I just saw (or perhaps just too lazy). Normally I'm all for freedom of expression in movies, but this is one area in which that freedom makes me a bit queasy.
For "Recount," I don't have too many of these concerns, though. A New York Times article discussed some complaints about the film's portrayal of the Democrats' head negotiator Warren Christopher, in which Christopher himself said the portrayal of him was pure fiction. If he's right, that's somewhat unfortunate, but Christopher isn't too big of a figure in the film and his character is not part of its appeal for me. What I liked was the excitement of seeing the sequence of events laid out before me, getting more and more ridiculous and the case for Bush as the winner seeming more and more uncertain, as Gore's team battles every obstacle. And then you're just whalloped by the result at the end, when they can go no further. It's like an action movie, where you know how it's going to end but you somehow convince yourself that it might not end that way, which allows you to enjoy the ride. Except here it's in the reverse -- you convince yourself it could all turn out ok, but you know ends very badly.
The film came down very hard on Katherine Harris (played by Laura Dern), as the film portrayed her as completely evil, bowing to the worst aspects of the Republican party machine, and being almost knowingly ditzy about it all in the process. She was always making sure she looked perfect, and taking big breaths before going out and deceiving people, like a dumber version of Tilda Swinton's character in "Michael Clayton." She made my skin crawl.
On the other hand, I was always reassured whenever Kevin Spacey's Ron Klain (the lawyer and former Gore chief of staff who was involved in the day-to-day operations in Florida) and especially Ed Begley, Jr.'s David Boies (the famous appellate lawyer Klain hired) was on screen. I always rooted for them as they made their arguments, and they never disappointed.
During the recount, the Republicans were trying to show that the recount was a joke through their PR and protests and repeated questioning of the process. But, ironically, the more you find out about the events, the more the Republican case and the election results and the case for Bush as the winner seemed like a joke.