LA Times: 'Fair Game' brings us back to the Bush years

November 5th, 2010

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November 4, 2010 | 12:00 pm

Republicans just delivered a blow to Democrats at the polls, Karl Rove is back as a political power player, and George W. Bush’s memoirs are due out next week. If it feels like deja vu, wait until you get to the multiplex on Friday.

That’s opening day for “Fair Game,” the real-life story of Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts), the covert CIA agent outed by the Bush administration, and her outspoken husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson (Sean Penn).

Director Doug Liman (“The Bourne Conspiracy,” “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”) insists it’s all just a coincidence. Not that he minds. “ ‘Fair Game’ transcends politics and time,” he said by telephone recently. “It’s just an added bonus that the political part of the film has never been more relevant than right now.”

But after all the drama of election season, is everyone really eager to see a political movie -– even a political-thriller-cum-domestic-drama that has Watts and Penn in the lead roles?

“I did not make a polemic,” Liman said. “This is an anti-abuse-of-power-by-the-White House movie. And that is not a Democratic or Republican issue.”

Liman did take a break from filmmaking two years ago to make commercials for candidate Barack Obama. Working on that campaign, he says, taught him that heartland America views Hollywood as detached from reality. (Surprise!) “So I knew better than to make a film that would preach,” he said. “If you want to preach, don’t preach in a movie that people have to spend $12 to go see.”

Another question is whether America is ready to revisit that particular period in history, when the debate over weapons of mass destruction gripped the nation.

“People have raised that,” Watts said. “Do we really want to go there? Aren’t we moving on? First of all, how can we forget?” But, she added, the strength of “Fair Game” is the way it focuses on the near-disintegration of a marriage and a couple “brave enough to stand up and tell the truth despite a fear of repercussions.”

The movie is based on the memoirs of Plame and Wilson, who also were consultants.

“Viewers will be able to draw their own conclusions,” Plame said. “There are a lot of grays in this movie. I don’t think everyone in the CIA looks great. No one looks all bad. The same in the White House. … Well, perhaps a little less there.

“But it’s not a Michael Moore movie. It’s just saying: ‘Here’s what happened as a result of this abuse of power. You figure out the consequences.’”

— Scott Kraft