Frost/Nixon (Ron Howard, 2008):USA, UK, France

Reviewed by Keith Chancey.  Viewed at the Riviera theatre in Santa Barbara.

Imagining an intense, politically-driven, interview-based film is sort of hard to do.   If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve heard this: “I’m saying that if the president does it, then that mean it’s not illegal.” That brief clip is the moment the whole film builds up to, but at no point is the film less shocking (especially if you’re mostly ignorant about Watergate).  From start to finish Frost/Nixon is not only entertaining and compelling, but also extraordinarily well made.

Frost/Nixon is a sort of documentary, mostly narrative, surrounding the interview of Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) by Robert Frost (Michael Sheen).  The films starts with Nixon resigning his position of president of the United States and ends with what 1977 America wanted to hear most from the former president.  And, by the time it gets there, you’ll feel like you too are right in the middle of it all.

The norm for politically-driven films seems to be a liberal one.  As to whether the film is bias towards the left or right, saying it’s fair would be more appropriate.   Attention is given to “Nixon the man” and dues are paid to where the president was able to truly succeed.  But on topics of Vietnam and Watergate, there are no holds barred.  This is a well-played portrait of a man.  Richard Nixon is portrayed nearly perfectly, to the point where it may as well have been him.  Hearing the opinions of those who knew him best would be quite interesting.

But the film is perhaps a deeper plea for truth.  As with most films dealing with massive lies, the fib in question is not the only lie being referenced.  In fact, saying Ron Howard’s Frost/Nixon isn’t reminding us all to personally keep our facts straight would be sort of ironic–as would saying that we were never given a warning not to let history repeat itself.

Time travel is no easy task, but apparently Ron Howard has mastered the technique.  I found nothing wrong with the film. Not one single thing (actually, after reviewing IMDB… apparently there are some buildings from the 90’s visible in one scene for a couple of seconds or something).  Each performance, each speech, each set piece and even every pair of leather shoes are all straight out of the 70’s.  Capturing a moment in time perfectly, and still managing to leave the audience totally mesmerized is quite the accomplishment.  I would personally be quick to call this Ron Howard’s most accomplished work as a director.

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