A thrilling TV movie about our greatest (recent) political debacle

If this year’s never-ending primary season has made you wonder about the virtues of the electoral process, just remember: It could always be worse. HBO’s upcoming made-for-TV movie Recount (premiering 5/25) revisits the chaos in Florida following the 2000 presidential election, finding a surprisingly suspenseful and darkly comic tale in an event whose outcome is never in doubt.

Told primarily from the perspective of Al Gore’s chief of staff, Ron Klain (played by Kevin Spacey), Recount illustrates how both Democratic and Republican operatives tried to use tactics legal and otherwise to their advantage in the aftermath of the all-but-tied Florida vote. Brilliant performances abound, particularly Laura Dern’s devilish send-up of the memorably self-involved Katherine Harris, the Florida secretary of state, and Tom Wilkinson’s dead-on portrayal of James Baker, the Bush family’s relentless consigliere. But you don’t have to be a politics wonk to appreciate the excruciatingly accurate scenes that remind you, again and again, how history very nearly could have gone in a completely different direction.

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