Late Night: “Fair Game” at Cannes – The Hollywood-ization (and GOP-ization?) of the Valerie Plame Story
Posted in: Plame
“Fair Game,” the film about former CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson and the Bush administration’s leaks about her identity, is set to premiere May 20 at the Cannes Film Festival.
Naomi Watts and Sean Penn play Plame Wilson and her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson. Doug Liman, the producer behind the Bourne franchise, directed “Fair Game.”
Based on Plame’s 2007 memoirs “Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House,” “Fair Game” is the only U.S. film in the running for the Palme d’Or, the festival’s top prize.
The film’s trailer hasn’t made it online, but the clip below was posted to the festival’s web site.
The clip (posted above), though, raises questions about just how faithful the adaptation was. As summarized by Greg Mitchell for the Nation:
It finds the couple–Naomi Watts and Sean Penn–in a playground with their kids running about, as Penn angrily confronts his wife over what he has just learned: that she may have written something that got him “sent” to Africa on that famous uranium fact-seeking mission related to Iraq WMD.
In the scene, she denies that she did that as he claims that if this gets out his career is ruined, and asks her to speak out. She suggests that maybe he did not think of his family first when he wrote that New York Times op-ed that drew so much attention…
Curiously, I don’t remember any of those moments being recounted in either Valerie or Joseph Wilson’s memoirs (on page 139 of her book, Valerie writes, “at no time did Joe or I ever consider that my cover and work at the CIA would be compromised by the submission of the op-ed“) — but they do happen to be exactly in line with common, if false, Republican talking points during the controversy:
- Valerie Plame Wilson sent her husband on the trip to Niger.
- His wife’s role is an embarrassing fact that undermines Joseph Wilson’s credibility.
- Joseph Wilson more or less invited the outing of his wife by publicly criticizing the Bush administration.
As many people, including Joseph Wilson, noted repeatedly during the past few years, these assumptions are absolute nonsense. Why on earth would Valerie Plame Wilson think it would help her husband’s business to send him on an unpaid trip (except for reimbursing his expenses) to beautiful, scenic the bleak desert of Niger? And how was Joe Wilson’s consulting business somehow dependent on a trip that he didn’t talk about until it was revealed in news reports a year and a half later?
Similiarly, as Plame herself notes in passing in her book (see the quote above), the idea that a career CIA officer working on vital nuclear-security issues would be exposed by her own government for the meager purpose of political retaliation was utterly unthinkable to most people… except, unfortunately, the cutthroat, politics-is-everything sociopaths who populated the highest levels of the Bush-Cheney White House (and their unquestioning acolytes).
Or, I guess, the amoral denizens of Hollywood studios, who are more interested in emotionally-driven conflict than accuracy. As Fair Game‘s director, Doug Liman (known previously for The Bourne Identity), said in an interview, the focus of the Plame movie was “story and character, and not… politics.” And I can see why people in “the industry” might prefer a story about a CIA spy who secretly tries to help her husband’s career, but is inadvertently exposed by his media self-promotion, to the less combative, politically correct truth.
Besides, Valerie Plame Wilson herself is going to Cannes to promote the film, so I guess she and her husband have made their peace with whatever factual detours Liman & Co. may have taken in adapting their autobiographical accounts. But maybe the need to accept personally insulting, false narratives just for the sake of getting their story told in some form is the depressing moral here… the Republicans make up a bogus version of events out of thin air, and it winds up being perpetuated because it serves the interests of certain moneyed factions (like Hollywood film backers) more than the actual truth does.
And everyone else has no choice but to accept it, and make the best of things. And so it goes.