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Studio: Uni Dist Corp. (mca) Release Date: 04/21/2009 Run time: 123 minutes Rating: R
Sounds like a good match: a historical drama from the author of The Queen, but with an American subject in the generational wheelhouse of director Ron Howard. And so Peter Morgan's Tony-winning play morphs into a Hollywood movie under the wing of the Apollo 13 guy. Morgan's subject is a curious moment of post-Watergate shakeout: British TV host David Frost's long-form interviews with ex-President Richard Nixon, conducted in 1977. It was a big ratings success at the time, justifying the somewhat controversial decision to cut an enormous check for Nixon's services. The movie adds a mockumentary note to the otherwise straightforward style, having direct-to-camera addresses from various aides to Frost and Nixon (played by the likes of Oliver Platt, Sam Rockwell, and Kevin Bacon); these basically tell us things we already glean from the rest of the movie, adding unnecessary melodrama and upping the stakes. In this curious scheme, the success of Frost's career, which could bellyflop if he doesn't get something worthwhile out of the cagey, long-winded Nixon, is given somewhat more weight than the actual revelations of the interviews. Even with these questionable storytelling decisions, there's still the spectacle of two actors going at it hammer and tongs, and on that level the movie offers some heat. Michael Sheen, who played Tony Blair not only in The Queen but also in another Morgan-scripted project, The Deal, is adept at catching David Frost's blow-dried charm, as well as the determination beneath it. Frank Langella's physical performance as Nixon is superb, and he certainly can be a commanding actor, though veteran Nixon-watchers might find that he misses a certain depth of self-pity in the man. Both actors were retained from the original stage production, a rare thing in Hollywood--and probably Howard's best decision of the project. --Robert Horton
- Flat and uncompelling
The drama behind a Popular Non-American TV Host like David Frost, trying to wrest a criminal confession out of disgraced Republican President, Richard M. Nixon was hardly suspenseful or even compelling viewing when it first happened. Getting Nixon to expose himself with that single mad Colonel Nathan Jessup admission (Which I won't divulge here. Think A FEW GOOD MEN.) was hardly surprising considering his meglomanical personality. But, to write a play about it (I had no idea there was one), and then use that play as the basis for a screenplay is really trying to pull something grand out of a small historical Television event. It was no big deal at the time, and is now only a small footnote in the entire history of The Watergate Scandal. This film also reminded me of Clooney's GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK, which I felt looked great, but also contained a lot of empty conflict only to arrive at another small media event. There isn't a very compelling drama leading up to the big showdown interview between the two combatants. Director Ron Howard tries to fuel the non-drama with some nice montage work ala Oliver Stone, providing some brief Watergate history and Frost's team research into the whole affair. He also adds a heart thumping dramatic score to build suspense. It's a little overwrought and at times, distracting. But, the entire drama of a Pop TV icon going toe-to-toe with a very intelligent self-destructive politician is hardly edge-of-your-seat material for a two hour film. I don't even know if it's even much of an important footnote in the entire Nixonian debacle.
The performances feel like smarmy Saturday Night Live parodies. Frank Langela tries too hard to do an imitation of Nixon, instead of acting him. Sorry film critics, he doesn't sound or behave in any way like Nixon. At times, his vocalization of Nixon was just downright annoying. Imitations and impressions are a big no-no in the craft of acting. Anthony Hopkins did a much better job of acting Richard Nixon, instead of trying to do an imitation or an impression of him. Even though Hopkins looked nothing like Nixon, not once did I believe I was watching Hopkins the actor, imitating Nixon. He embodies Nixon. Of course, working out with Oliver Stone's amazing screenplay went a long long way to provide Hopkins with some really juicy hardcore dialogue to bend his choppers around. Langela must have known comparisons would be forthcoming. Langela's performance is brave, and he has a few terrific moments as Nixon, but they're not enough to push the lack of drama into a great acting vehicle. Part of the fault lies with the director and the screenwriter. The conflict here is just not that compelling. Ho-hum.
Michael Sheen is not bad. However, he looks and feels more like Austin Powers than David Frost. The film has a lot of bad British wigs that look like bad British haircuts. (Maybe the most realistic part of the production.) And not once did I believe I was watching David Frost interviewing Richard Nixon.
Stick with the Original Frost/Nixon Interviews. Pieces of them are included on the DVD Extras. But, not enough to warrant a purchase.
Fairly overrated, very disappointing, and surely one of Ron Howard's lesser films.
3 Stars for the some nice production design, decent direction, and for some interesting history leading up to the event. But, not enough compelling drama, and too many parody performances to propel this into Classic film status.
Rent or buy Oliver Stone's NIXON, Michael Mann's THE INSIDER, and Rob Reiner's A FEW GOOD MEN instead. They're far better films with far more dramatic material. ...more info
- Nothing new brought to the table. Xcess drama
You should just watch the original interview tapes.
But that wouldn't be as interesting you say, eh? The age of the adaptation has convinced many of that. It is far more enlightening to witness Nixon stumble over himself while in the real time original film than the expensively contrived parlor trick of Hollywood film making. I have yet to meet anyone who liked this movie for authentic reasons, for its own merit. Instead, everyone's opinion about the film is clich¨¦d from the back of the box (i.e. played Nixon well etc. I personally think Frost's character was the highlight of the film).
But one thing that sticks out above all else about the adaptation is the fact they exaggerated Nixon's internal feelings (they assume he felt that way). In you original, Nixon's soul is not on display like in the movie. But they knew that to make this movie stand out it would be necessary to represent, in this interview, Nixon's internal doubt and misery. Everyone loves to see the powerful fall from grace. ...more info
- Quiet and incredible
Richard Nixon was, without a doubt, one of the worst presidents the United States has ever had, period. His few successes, such as opening up China, are only bare successes and are vastly overshadowed by his many, many failings, of which Watergate is only one. Prior to W, he was certainly the worst president of my lifetime, and definately the worst in the 20th century. Say what you wish about Clinton, who was impeached and shouldn't have been, but the worst crime he committed was lying about sex. The many crimes Nixon committed were far, far worse and have inflicted a damage that even now our country has not recovered from.
The film Frost/Nixon doesn't dwell to much on how the Nixon presidency failed. Rather it focuses on the start of Nixon's rehabilitation before the American public, as he began a series of interviews with British TV personality, David Frost. What begins as lightweight sessions with Nixon dominating turn, in the end, to something quite different, with Nixon asserting that, as far as certain crimes go, "... if the President does it, it's not illegal!"
The movie gives you a fascinating behind the scenes look at all the effort and money that went into getting Nixon to agree to the interviews. You also see the strategies used by both sides to try and control the interviews.
The movie is first-rate entertainment, featuring a wonderful performance by Frank Langella, who is even better as Nixon than Anthony Hopkins had been. I'd had my reservations about him initially, but he proved to be more than up to the task of playing the former president. All the supporting roles are equally good. Really, it's an almost perfect film and worth your time and money....more info
- The Rise and Fall of Showmen
FROST/NIXON is one of the most successful screen adaptations of a play yet made. Perhaps that is due in part to the fact that the popular stage play by Peter Morgan was revised for the screen by the playwright, but it is also to the credit of director Ron Howard who managed to suffuse the 'play as movie' with such atmosphere and feeling of spontaneity that the rather long movie seems to whisk by more rapidly than history!
Everyone knows of the infamous David Frost interview with Richard Nixon after Nixon had resigned office and was living in semi-seclusion in San Clemente, California, a bitter man struggling with the demons not only form the recent past but also form his childhood. Frost took on the challenge to bring the perpetrator of the Watergate scandal to his knees to satisfy the American public's need for retribution, and in conducting these interviews he did indeed achieve that. The story is as much a character study of Frost as it is of Nixon and the parallels writer Morgan uncovers makes the film far more than a quasi-documentary. This is real drama played for all it's worth.
Frank Langella is unforgettable in his portrayal of Nixon as is Michael Sheen as Frost, each actor having played the roles on Broadway and transferring that depth of understanding to the screen. The surprise in this film is the use of the peripheral cast of characters - Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt, Sam Rockwell, Matthew Macfadyen, and Toby Jones - a group of actors who light the darker corners of the story with aplomb.
FROST/NIXON should be required viewing for every Political Science major in our schools - and hopefully will urge the nation to find a similar manner to bring closure to the strangely coincidental machinations of the recent Bush administration crimes. Grady Harp, April 09...more info
- Beauty and the Beast
What a mightily enjoyable film.
Frank Langella renders Richard Nixon as slower, older and heftier than he really was; somewhere between a punch drunk prize fighter and a waning silverbacked gorilla, snorting and puffing at the attentions of a glad-handing young dilettante. Michael Sheen plays that glad-handing dilettante, British talk show host David Frost in truth a little unevenly: at times caricaturing his bouffant mincing drawl like an effete Austin Powers, at times a spookily accurate rendition, at times a diluted one not a million miles away from the same actor's celebrated portrayal of British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
But this unevenness is I think demanded by the script which asks us to believe the same man was by turns the sort of international playboy shagadelically chatting up first class posh girls over the mid Atlantic, a superficial chancer prepared to take on any assignment including (quel horreur!) hosting an Australian chat show, an impulsive bluffer forced into a desperate fundraising measures by a rash commitment which he couldn't back up and an incisive political analyst, able finally to pull Richard Nixon limb from limb when it seemed all was intractably lost. I have a suspicion Frost wasn't really any of things, at least not to anything like the degree suggested here.
But that is what good drama requires, and in this way and in others the dramatic archetypes on which the screenplay was surely based occasionally show through. In a historical drama the screenplay writer's job is to extrude from the intractably interwoven fabric of fact a recognisable narrative when in reality one never existed. Ron Howard does this artfully but is almost too successful for his own good. The narrative prescribes a perfect "confronting the monster" trajectory, with all the phases and characters clearly articulated: henchmen, damsels, wise counsel, facilitating assistants, a call to challenge, early success, dramatic reversal and then triumph out of certain defeat.
But real life, as they say, doesn't follow the script. Now it might just be that the Nixon interviews really did play out in so dramatically perfect a fashion, but you do have to wonder how much additional fictionalising the screenplay involves. A thoroughly implausible drunken midnight conversation, in particular, had the ring of a dramatic as opposed to historical device.
That said, for the very same reason, the Frost/Nixon is extremely entertaining and has piqued my interest enough to find out some more. Special mention should go to the extremely effective secondary cast: Sam Rockwell - not that long ago Zaphod Beeblebrox - all but unrecognisable as Frost's excitable and overly-principled anti-Nixon researcher, Kevin Bacon's typically assured and unflashy portrayal of Nixon's chief of staff Jack Brennan and Toby Jones' creepy portrayal of Nixon's weirdo PR Guy, Swifty Lazar.
Olly Buxton...more info
- 4.5 Stars: Compelling performances drive a thoughtful film.
DISCLAIMER: If you really want to know what happened during the David Frost/Richard Nixon interviews, watch the actual interview footage. It's available on DVD. Nothing reproduced in Hollywood can replace true historical journalism.
That being said, FROST/NIXON should at least spark interest in audiences who aren't quite familiar with the interviews (like myself). The plot is fairly simple: British talk show host David Frost decides to get Richard Nixon to sit down with him for a series of interviews. Everyone's dead-set against it, but Frost is determined to gain back his reputation, and Nixon is determined to gain a little money.
Howard's direction is stellar, and the script is great, but the movie's true strength lies in its choice of actors. Michael Sheen is terrific as Frost; we can almost ignore his UNDERWORLD roles. He exudes charm and charisma and all the failings that go with tackling a superior foe. Frank Langella as Nixon is simply fantastic; he creates a complex and sympathetic character. Of the supporting cast, Kevin Bacon (as Nixon's loyal sidekick) and Sam Rockwell (as one of Frost's chief investigators) are the standouts. Oliver Platt adds a bit of extra charm, as he does to every film. However, of course, it's the two leads who draw the most attention, and deservedly so. FROST/NIXON is, if nothing else, a great film, one that will hopefully inspire viewers to expand their political knowledge by seeking out the genuine "Frost/Nixon" interviews....more info
- Solid Performance on All Parts
Frost Nixon was an excellent film about the story behind the David Frost interview of Richard Nixon that took place a couple years after his resignation from office. Frank Langella (Nixon) and Michael Sheen (Frost) give masterful performances that capture the viewer from the opening scene. I did not know what happened in this true story depiction before I started watching and was extremely pleased by such an exceptional film that told what happened.
The movie is rated R but the only reason is probably the two "F" words in it. Otherwise I think this is a film that anyone in the family could watch that enjoys learning about history. The movie is not biased politically more than what the reporters and political staffers would have been at the time. This really was a great film and it is highly recommended ...more info
- Riveting look at a crucial time in history
When I first heard about a movie which covered the David Frost interviews of Richard Nixon, I couldn't imagine that it would make very good theater. How wrong I was! From the beginning of the movie, showing Nixon's resignation and Frost's less-than-heavyweight television career, to the final moments showing the former President self-destructing before a large television audience, this is a fascinating portrayal of a David and Goliath struggle which ends much as it did in the Biblical version. David Frost invested all of his financial resources in a gamble which could have ruined his career or, as it happened, raised him to new heights as a serious journalist. The movie hits all the right notes and the portrayal of Nixon is powerful and poignant....more info
- Uhhhh...ooooohhhh yeeeaaaah that's the stuff. Stick it to `im Frost...uuggggghhhhh....
The 60s were not a good time in American History for presidents. Actually they weren't a good time in American History period, and yet utterly insane liberals just can't leave them alone. And for whatever reason the focal point of their fascination with this turbulent decade is Richard Millhouse Nixon. Honestly, what was this man's crime besides being a Republican?
He tried to steal an election, yes, but if you think he's the only one who's tried and not only gotten away with it you are a na?ve little girly man! JFK did, whether you like to admit it or not, steal the election in Illinois with the help of the Mafia. And yet, libs seem to be fine with that. And in more recent history, BH (Barack HUSSEIN Obama) stole the US election with help from illegal immigrants which it has been proven voted not only illegally but multiple times, the black panthers which showed up at polling places frightening people into voting for BHO, and ACORN who registered the same people to vote repeatedly!
However, the name of this film is not O'Reilly/Obama (but oh how I wish it was) but instead, Frost/Nixon. Let me begin this review proper by saying that this is utterly and unequivocally the most boring film you will EVER watch. First of all, the actual Frost/Nixon interviews, if you are really sadomasochistic enough to want to watch them, are already available on DVD. So why anyone would want to see a 2 hour long dramatic reenactment?
The film begins in 1976 as David Frost, played by Michael Sheen, is apparently some kind of popular limey TV personality. While on the crapper one day he just suddenly decides to interview Nixon, which is not really that entertaining for an opening plot point. It seems an impossible feat, but Swifty Lazar (played by some Broadway fruit named Toby Jones) convinces Nixon, played by Frank Langella whoever that is, to do it by telling him he'll make a lot of money. And since Nixon is a money hungry crook (remember?) this is all it takes. Also, Kevin Bacon appears in a role that no one cares about.
After Nixon agrees to do it, we pretty much get to the meat of this film, two men trying to one-up each other when it comes to exaggerated play acting. No joke; Langella's impersonation of Nixon is about the hammiest thing I've ever seen. Honestly, I've seen 2bit stand up comics doing a better job with their "I am not a crrrooook" shtick. And I'd sure as hell rather watch that than this. Basically, the film's goal was to portray Nixon as a raving lunatic, mad with power. However, while watching this film, faux-Nixon's megalomania reminded me more so of BO. It's that, "I'm the president and I'll do whatever I want" type of dictatorial aura put off by the both of them that really had me going.
No here's the part of the review where I'm going to have to let you in on a little Operation Watchdog secret. I happen to be a High School Political Science teacher. I knew this film would be nothing more than rubbish, but I like to make class as fun as possible, so with the permission of the school principle and the parents of my students, I arranged a little field trip to the local movie theatre where we actually watched this film. My senior class pupils were all for it since it got them out of class (we went to an afternoon matinee) and I figured it would help them learn about politics in a more realistic, hands on type of environment.
I was a fool!
Pretty much as soon as the credits were finished rolling, the cast of characters all began to blurt out streams of profanity, almost as if it was a contest to see who could be the most loathsome. My female pupils got very red faced as some of this profanity was not appropriate for the ears of ladies. Meanwhile, some of my male students got a little rowdy and started giggling and repeating the words. I assume this is the first time they even heard most of these they were so vulgar.
I obviously can't repeat it here, nor would I want to, but here's a little rundown of just what I CAN REMEMBER:
F-bombs, MF-bombs, the Lord's name used in vain in several different contexts, S-bombs, D-bombs (think Nixon's first name), B-bombs, H-bombs, A-bombs, and more. Tell me, how was it that this film was even slightly marketed as an educational political history film when it was nothing more than a medium for the slimy screenwriter to put his dictionary of profanities to use?
As the movie reeled on, I was doing my best to settle down my rowdy students and try and explain that even though these actors on the screen, whom they are supposed to look up to a role models, used this language, it was not a good idea that they do so also. And that's not easy. I was also struggling to explain to the ladies that their husbands may use these words sometimes when coming home from a tough day at work, and the best thing to do is have dinner ready ahead of time so they can calm them down. Preferably, in a nice house dress and a ribbon in their hair.
When I had nearly finished this task, I glanced up at the screen and, you'll never guess what I saw...a man standing nude with his buttocks handing out on the big screen. Just standing there flaunting his manly booty. Now at this point in my position as a teacher I had only practiced the homeland security evacuation drills, never had to really put them to use, but to me this qualified as RED: Severe Risk so I escorted them out of the theatre.
Needless to say, being in the Baton Death March would have been a more pleasant experience than the drive back to the school. The ladies were quivering, the boys were shocked, and I was so red in the face that some even mistook me for an Injin. I asked them if there was anything I could do to prevent them from telling and they just kinda sat there. I didn't have to worry about them telling anyone; in fact they will probably speak to very few people again in their lives.
Do not watch: Frost/Nixon. ...more info
- Langella Crawls Under Nixon's Skin
First off, see this film, but only when you're in the frame of mind to pay attention to dialog and nuances. It's talky. But in the talk is all the drama. Secondly, it's an acting tour de force. How did Langella do it?
I initially resisted seeing this film. After all, I was one of those 45 million Americans who sat riveted for the original Frost/Nixon interviews. I still remember the quiet, but titanic battle of wits between the TV entertainer and the wily ex-President, ending in the jaw dropping admission and near-apology to the American people. It was the stuff of history, and of legend.
Films about real people are always a dice throw, especially famous people you think you know so well. Nixion, in particular, fascinates Hollywood directors. We've already seen Anthony Hopkins take on Tricky Dick. What was Frank Langella going to do with him?
What Frank Langella accomplishes in the film is to crawl inside Nixon's skin, into his very core, and manifest the complex emotions with subtle nuances. He captures a range of emotions with the squint of an eye, twitch of the mouth, the iron clad sense of self and power beneath the camera-ready smile. It is virtuosity.
Michael Sheen as Frost is good, but he has a bit of room to play. I remember the real David Frost from back in the day. He came to American TV as a whiz kid, quickly fizzled, and around the time of Frost/Nixon was seen as a flash in the pan. Nobody much remembers the 1970's David Frost -not as much as everybody remembers Richard Nixon. Sheen captures the determined careerism, the sort of smarmy charm and playboy rep Frost had back then. His Frost is easy to underestimate. Sheen nails him.
As I remember the real Frost/Nixon interview, Frost was never a light weight and Nixon was actually funny and charming. But during that last hour, the Watergate hour, things got down to street fighting level. It ended, just as this film ends, with a disgraced American President finally admitting he let his people and his country down.
I found it personally ironic. I told friends at the time after Frost/Nixon aired - Richard Nixon had the wrong job. He should have been a Sunday morning political pundit. But never the President. In Ron Howard's fictional film, it sounded like Richard Nixon came to the same conclusion I did. ...more info
- Somewhat Over The Top...
Frank Langella turned in a good performance, but he was by no means truly 'being' Richard Nixon. The stereotypical image of Nixon as the hunched over, brooding character has been done so many times before, that it would be interesting to see someone really attempt to play him as he really was.
That being said, it was entertaining at times and the actors did a good job. However, many liberties were taken with history and it wasn't all quite as it was protrayed. Just be prepared to see a very loosely based portrayal of actual history. In reality about 2.5 stars for me....more info
- NIXON NEVER LOOKED SO GOOD
Frank Langella is a revelation as Nixon, he gives the man a depth that is often lacking in movies about Nixon, Im sure his two daughters never saw him as the monster he was often portrayed. I really had not expected to be so revited by a movie essentially about an series of interviews produced years ago by a celebrity interviewer for hire of a disgraced former American President, trying desperately to clear his name and replenish the old coffers as W. would say(Geez, how appropriate is that?). This is a movie that was always going to rise or fall on the performances of the two leads and it soars because the two actors are on top of their respective games and the supporting performances are well done as well and are essential to the flow of the movie. This was such a strong year for actors in a lead role and it's hard to say that Penn did not deserve his award, but wow, Langella gives a career performance in this movie. Highly recommended. ...more info
- Incisive Look Into Frost/Nixon Interviews
Ron Howard's Frost/Nixon focuses on the period after Richard Nixon resigned from the Presidency, and leading up to the Frost Nixon interview. The movie starts off with the world's and Frost's fascination with Nixon's resignation and the lengths he went to secure Nixon as an interview subject. Frost bet not only his career on the interviews but his life as well. He put all his assets on the line, and borrowed from all his friends to pay the $600,000 Nixon (and his agents) asked for.
Part of Frosts preparation for the interviews was to hire researchers for background on Nixon and to formulate the questions asked during the interviews. The researchers, played by Oliver Platt and Sam Rockwell add not only some comic relief, but provide a behind the scenes look at the pressure they were under and exerted on Frost to, not just interview Nixon but to push him and ask the hard questions, to at least try for some accountability from Nixon, which of course resulted in Nixon blurting out that if the President does something it makes it legal.
From Nixon's point of view we're shown his isolation, even when he's surrounded by aides, family, friends and supporters. We're also given a window into Nixon's insecurities with a drunken phone call to Frost, and Nixon rails on about the injustices and perceived slights he suffered throughout his life at the hands of others. Nixon also tried to get the psychological edge on Frost by asking off-kilter questions right before taping would begin, such as asking Frost if he had fornicated the night before, which was a famously well known anecdote at the time.
When I first saw the previews of Frost/Nixon I cringed when I saw Frank Langella as Nixon because it looked like a caricature. But that was before seeing the movie. Langella merges so successfully with Nixon that you cease to think of him doing a character but of personifying Nixon.
Ron Howard isn't a flashy director, he uses special effects only when necessary to the plot, and he isn't given to using the usual directors devices to add false emotion to a scene, instead he trusts the story, he trusts that the drama of the situations to carry the viewer interest, to provide them with an emotionally satisfying experience. Howard is one of the best directors working today, he consistently gets solid performances from his actors. The subject matter he chooses to direct is diverse and compelling. All of which is a far cry from his directorial debut of Eat My Dust.
The bonus features include, deleted scenes, a making of featurette, there's a short documentary look at the actual interviews as compared to the dramatized interviews, and there's a featurette that's bit of a propaganda for the Nixon library. I usually don't like the commentaries feature on movies, I usually find the insights not all that insightful but Ron Howard's commentary on this is interesting and adds to the viewing of the movie....more info
- If you want Frost Nixon Buy the real interviews
Yet another re-write of history not worth your time and money unless of course if you prefer that.
While the performances are quite good I can name lots of bad films with great acting. The attraction of the supposed behind the scenes stuff not on the actual Frost-Nixon video is probably a bit embellished to over the top. Great to see the demonization of Nixon is still going on.
The Critics loved it but the film went to DVD awful fast! Think about how they trashed many good films you love.
Watch the real interviews and avoid the rewrite is my advice.
Opie has enough money!...more info
- Truth is stranger than fiction...
A film based on a play about the real debates between David Frost and Richard Nixon. Like any play or fictionalised screenplay based on a historical event (Amadeus, the Killing Fields), careful thought needs to be given about what is fact and what is fiction. The problem is that, without a roadmap, it is impossible to know what really happened as it is depicted in the film without either a roadmap or researching the events of the documentary and watching the debates themselves. They exist on YouTube, of course, and it would be good to watch them all.
I enjoyed the movie, mostly because all of the characters were so vivid. David Frost reminded me a lot of someone I know, and watching Frank Langella play Richard Nixon because you'd find yourself wondering how similar he was and how dissimilar from Nixon he was (likewise for Anthony Hopkins playing Nixon in the Oliver Stone movie). Very interesting touches, such as the look on Frost's face when he first starts interviewing Nixon and realizes that he's WAY out of his league with the fish he's roped. Nixon's hunger to be back in the spotlight is palpable, although his greed in ringing in the big bucks is a questionable distraction that is only seen in the first parts of the film. Kevin Bacon is fantastic as Nixon's devoted Marine chief of staff, whose devotion is not entirely understandable until you watch the bonus materials (which are excellent) that include interviews with the devoted people who run the Richard Nixon Presidential library, which started life differently than other presidential libraries, mainly due to the cloud over Nixon's resignation - it was only officially set up in 2007, three years after fellow two-termer Bill Clinton's. The complexity of his character is remarkable - he eggs Frost on to become a worthy adversary, despite the fact that he was chosen for the interview mainly on the basis that he was a lightweight. The contradiction of the coexistence of his egotism with his low self-esteem is also fascinating to behold.
Some quibbles with the film - I find it odd that David Frost is described as a playboy, but we only get hints of this. I also dislike the key "drunk Nixon phone call" scene/dream sequence, which strikes me as stagy. How many people who watch this film will assume that it was based on a real event? Was it?...more info
- Looking For Nixon
Adapted from the fairly successful stage play, FROST/NIXON is a fictionalized account of the interview process and sessions that took place between world media darling David Frost (Michael Sheen) and former President Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) in 1977. The film follows Frost as he seeks to get back into the big time (television in America) by gaining an exclusive set of interviews with Nixon to be broadcast on network television. Nixon has been living in relative seclusion since resigning from the Presidency, but he, too, longs to be in the limelight again. After meeting Frost, Nixon and his staff believe the man to be a journalistic lightweight and believe that the interviews will be Nixon's catalyst for once again entering into power. Even though he spent a lot of time working and had an amazing research staff, Nixon controls each of the first three days of shooting. However, (in a completely fictionalized scene) the night before the final interview Frost receives a telephone call from a drunken Nixon. The call reveals a deeply personal side of Nixon, but also encourages Frost to be more aggressive during the final day of taping in which he ends up taunting Nixon into a confession-of-sorts about Watergate and the cover-up.
I have to admit that I was a bit leery about seeing FROST/NIXON. I had heard wonderful things about the acting, but that Nixon was unfairly portrayed as an evil mastermind. The overall tone of the film is definitely NOT sympathetic to Richard Nixon. Watching the film I got the distinct impression that director Ron Howard and writer Peter Morgan wanted the audience to have the point of view of Frost's research team, James Reston, Jr. (Sam Rockwell) and Bob Zelnick (Oliver Platt).
Despite the overall tone, the film actually does present a decent portrayal of Nixon. Nixon was ambitious and sometimes almost ruthless. However, he was also a decent American who overcame some incredible odds. He loved his country and his family and was a master orator and debater. Frank Langella, reprising the role from Broadway, gives one of the most humanizing examples of Nixon ever seen in a Hollywood film. In most movies, Nixon's foibles and are exaggerated and he is presented as a caricature. Langella doesn't do this and offers viewers a picture of Nixon that most people would rather reject, that of a human being.
I really enjoyed FROST/NIXON. It is a drama and there are moments that are drawn out of effect. Also, the script is a tad too tidy, as though it was put together using a by-the-numbers formula for dramatic movies. Also, even though the movie does offer the closest thing to the "real" Nixon that has been seen on screen, the overall negative tone of the film towards Nixon will probably turn some people off. Like W., FROST/NIXON people on the far left of the political spectrum will probably find the movie too light on Nixon, while those on the far right will find it too harsh and negative. The truth is that Langella's Nixon actually falls somewhere inbetween and is closer to the real Richard Nixon than either side wants people to believe.
Recommended for modern history buffs and those who enjoy good, conversational dramas....more info
- Why Langella did not get the Oscar is beyond me.
If you have seen the actual interviews, the actual tapes of the real Frost/Nixon encounters, and then you watch the movie (or if you were even luckier, as was my case to also see the Broadway play), you will realize the true genius in Frank Langella's interpretation.
He does not "impersonate" Nixon.
Instead, he "becomes" the former President; not imitating the whirlpool of emotions that spun out of those sessions but rather, living them, suffering them, feeling them as if it had been Langella himself the one going through the ordeal.
Other portrayers of Nixon (like Anthony Hopkins) come to mind and, when compared to Mr. Langella, fail miserably.
This was the role of a lifeetime and Langella embraced it with gusto, with passion, with professionalism, and gave it the best of what his craft had to offer.
In contrast, Michael Sheen overdoes his interpretation of Frost, although he does have his powerful and sometimes even moving moments.
Kevin Bacon remains a consistently good and reliable actor, although his part was too short and failed to give the film more of the benefit of his talent.
- Nothing exceptional, but better suited for film than the stage play
Just before the mainstream conglomerate media let loose their dynastic praise on Frost/Nixon, a big studio picture directed by one of that machine's favorite sons Opie, I had the special privilege of previewing this stage adaptation just on the heels of seeing its Kennedy Center run, with all the curiosities that attend contrasting live theatre under a proscenium, against the meticulously edited medium of cinema where Nixon's famous beads of sweat are literally inches large - an intimacy that ironically amounts to smaller realism. (It is another evening at the movies followed by almost twenty minutes on the board for the next Orange Line train, so here comes another session of twiddling.)
When leaving the live production, I remember feeling (in agreement with my father who attended with me) that the playwright's conception was better suited for the movie medium. Some reasons are obvious, foremost the fact that the actual deus ex machina here is not something archetypal like gods and monsters you would nest above the stage, but rather the artifice of moving-picture interviews. You also have the simple fact that the playwright has found his most success as a screenwriter (e.g., U.K.'s "The Queen"). Moreover, the way that his actors address the audience from the stage is a combination of patronizing backstory and inelegant theatricalism (i.e., a device that comfits formalism and not this cocky contemporary milieu).
On the other hand, this is not a masterful motion picture. Ron Howard has never been more than a competent, conventional filmmaker, and this pr¨ºt-¨¤-porter project is no exception. Straight out of first-year film school (a class that Mr. Howard probably just audited), you can easily anticipate the tactic of verit¨¦ camerawork coming on with all the grace and freshness of Grandpa's favorite joke. And the film's convenience of relating backstory through journalistic interviews does not improve upon the play's primary fault of inelegant theatricalism.
But there is an extraordinary payoff in the film's final shot, a true literary d¨¦nouement, and by describing it here I give nothing away, only cue the moment for you specially to relish. In the play and screenplay, one current in the brinksmanship between Frost and Nixon is the President's grumbling about how Frost's Italian loafers are effeminate - "real men wear laces," says Nixon's right-hand military man. At the end of the film, Frost delivers Nixon a present, those same loafers. The parting shot - a beauty so proprietary to the language of cinema - is of Nixon against a fiery sunset, left alone again in his terrible loneliness, peering out into the ocean with that brand new pair of loafers planted onto the rail of his veranda. Prominent in the lore of Richard Nixon is an anecdote contained not by words, but a photograph - we see the Quaker walking in the sand of his San Clemente shore with his shoes on. From time to time, moments like these solidify my grown understanding of how Art can be infinitely more efficient, tasteful and even intellectual than the most carefully polished treatises. Even when these glimpses into enlightenment come sparingly, they make it all worthwhile. You can spend two hours in stadium seating surrounded by popcorn chomps, but something that lasts less than a minute occupies your mind and your spirit for so many more hours....more info
- Interesting during the interview portions
Some spoilers below:
This film takes a while to get going, focusing on a number of minor participants in the real-life drama surrounding interviewer David Frost's attempts to get interviews with Nixon a few years after his fall from grace. One has to be patient for a good 45 minutes or so, and then things start happening.
Once Frost starts drilling Nixon about his Watergate involvement and his incursions into Cambodia, the disgraced former president reveals his stubborn side and his belief that presidents are actually above the law. That Nixon does not remember a lengthy rant on the phone to Frost shows either that he's drinking too much or he's getting confused. Either way, Frank Langella does a fine job of showing his deterioration and disorientation.
And then it winds down and it's over. It's informative about our political history, but that's about it.
- The Blair Switch project
You would think that the subject matter would be quite dry for a film, but the pace is good and the plot flies along. The performances are excellent, although you cant get quite away from the thought that Sheens' David Frost IS Tony Blair, its hard to believe the loveable TV buffoon from "Through the Keyhole" and "Good Morning Britain" was once some sort of journalistic superstar.
I'm no student of this particular historical period, and I'm sure that some dramatic license must have been used, but the power of the performances and the pace of the film always keep you engaged. I'm sure that there are many Prime Ministers, Taoiseachs and Presidents that have got away with more, but have not been caught!
A highly enjoyable film, and heartily recommended.