Saturday, April 20, 2013

Frost/Nixon (2008)

Frost/Nixon gets my vote for a great film.

Ron Howard's 2008 film centres on two characters who are either all steak or sizzle. American President Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) is a smart man, but he knows he'll never be popular or move with the 'in' crowd.

British journalist David Frost (Michael Sheen) is the playboy television personality with good looks, a string of beautiful women on his arm and movie premieres to attend. He's a star, but history will judge his long-standing accomplishments to be minimal.

Frost wants to talk with the American president following his resignation because of the Watergate affair. Nixon is looking for a chance to redeem his image and earn a hefty paycheque. His advisors regard Frost as a lightweight who won't ask the tough questions a more experienced political reporter would fire Nixon's way.

Frost recruits some talented advisors, Bob Zelnick (Oliver Platt) and James Reston (Sam Rockwell) to help him prepare for the series of interviews, but the big guy is too busy trying to rustle up financing separate from the American networks and making public appearances to get ready for his talks with the disgraced American president.

Frost is easily outclassed for most of the interviews. He lets Nixon drone on. Statements aren't challenged. Frost doesn't know his stuff. Zelnick and Reston are appalled. It's only before a discussion on Watergate that Frost buckles down and does his own research.

Langella shines in this film. His Nixon is smart, cheap, efficient at mind games, prone to furious anger and not able to nail down certain success against Frost with a late-night phone call fueled by booze. I'd love to know if such a phone call took place or if the filmmakers took some artistic licence with the exchange that finally snapped some life into Frost.

Frost/Nixon earned five Academy Award nominations. It offers viewers an absorbing story and many fine performances, especially Kevin Bacon as Jack Brennan, Nixon's former chief of staff. See it.

RATING: 9/10

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