Movie review: Two titans clash in ‘Frost/Nixon’
Vail CO, Colorado
VAIL, Colorado “-Director Ron Howard (“The DaVinci Code”) does his best to make an interesting film about a topic which we already know the beginning, middle and end to before buying the ticket. If all the Oscar buzz surrounding “Frost/Nixon” (based on the play of the same name by Peter Morgan) hasn’t prompted you to do a Google search of the real-life “Frost/Nixon” soap-opera, then you’re probably better off anyway. The less you know going into the picture, the better, as the twists and turns will actually be surprises rather than a rehash of one of the darkest times in American history. If you don’t want to know anymore about it, I suggest you quit reading now.
After Richard M. Nixon (Frank Langella) resigned the presidency to weasel out of his involvement in the Watergate scandal, a British playboy and TV host named David Frost (Michael Sheen) figured out a way to capitalize on the whole thing by pitching a series of interviews with Nixon to all the American television networks. He succeeds in getting the interviews with Nixon by paying him a sizable figure, but the networks won’t bite, so, unflinching, Frost raises the money from sponsors and wealthy friends to buy the air time.
Considering this movie is mostly about two guys talking in a room, it’s still pretty entertaining. One of the most interesting aspects of the film is the way all the different parties attempt to use the project for their own interests. Frost simply wants to get back in the spotlight on American TV and Nixon wants to make the American public sympathetic to him. But there’s also author James Reston Jr. (Sam Rockwell), and journalist Bob Zelnick (Oliver Platt), whom Frost hires to dig up dirt on Nixon for the interviews. They both want to nail Nixon to the wall and nothing less than a complete confession of guilt for his criminal acts in office will do. Jack Brennan (Kevin Bacon) is Nixon’s ultra-loyal chief of staff who wants to see him exonerated on national TV.
As expected, “Frost/Nixon” is at its best when the two personalities face off during the interviews. Sheen’s portrayal of Frost is overwhelmingly charismatic and there couldn’t be a better choice than Langella as Nixon, either. Rather than caking on makeup and hamming it up like Josh Brolin did in “W.,” Langella plays Nixon with such reserved relish and sympathy that it’s impossible not to secretly cheer for him during the interviews. Watching these two jockey for position when sharing the screen made all the boring parts of the film worthwhile.
At just over two hours, “Frost/Nixon” is a bit of a seat-shifter. For most of the run time, it’s a tedious build up to the main event, but some really fine performances save it from becoming forgettable. And you might actually learn something in the process.
High Life Writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2939 or firstname.lastname@example.org.