Thursday, November 27, 2008

MOVIE REVIEW: "Frost/Nixon"

The film, a drama built around the syndicated two-hour (distilled from 12 hours) Richard Nixon taped interviews with the Australian-born television personality David Frost. It is directed by the often excellent Ron Howard, and produced by his longtime partner, Brian Glaser.

It misses the mark. At core it remains a adequate adaptation of the theater work upon which the film was based; a glossy treatment of a could-be fascinating subject, President Richard Nixon, who quit office in 1974 before being impeached; but it gets bogged down in the creators' obvious political bias (and their well-honed Hollywood by-the-formula film making technique ).

The film leaves one feeling manipulated by the storytelling and preached to by the lack of complexity. I learned nothing new about politics, life, Richard Nixon, etc...except gossipy details. (I personally lived through the Nixon years; perhaps that is my problem. Who needs to see Richard Nixon beaten up again, even as an obvious subject matter surrogate for George Bush II, whom I feel was the creators' primary target in mounting this tale.)

Full disclosure: I like and admire left-wing politics; I lean left myself. But the argument for the left is not enhanced (nor intelligently furthered) by more preaching-to-the-choir, self-congratulatory, media-praising political righteousness.

The cast was not served by the heavy-handedness of the material, especially poor Sam Rockwell, who had to suffer the foolishness of the film's writing bias. The creators of the film might argue that it was the tragedy of a fallen man. Nice try, but no? See the documentary "Fog of War" about Robert MacNamara for the truly great baring of the soul of a tragic man.

Frank Langella, who originated the role of Nixon on Broadway, was very good.

Michael Sheen as Frost was okay; his clever acting work showed through.

Kevin Bacon and Oliver Platt were fine.

Rebecca Hall, the director Sir Peter Hall's daughter, who played Frost's travel-around bed mate, was...I don't know what (or why) she was in the film. T & A meets Democracy's Frankenstein?

A final thought: as a dual quasi-biography, it was a rehash of the 'known' for my age group. Young people (unless tremendously politically hip) will get lost. Could be why it didn't make oodles money?


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