Frost/Nixon

Bomb Rating: 

I don't like sympathizing with a man who I know in my mind was as addicted to power as lonely housewives are to soap operas.

Frank Langella and Kevin Bacon in Frost/Nixon

This film is about the transformation of a powerful, fiercely clever president with masculine, lace up shoes into a doddery, tearful old man with effeminate, Italian shoes. Frost/Nixon. Sounds like a showdown. Sounds like a drama where an important battle of wills takes place. But the only battle of will I encountered during its screening was with my own eyelids as they struggled to close and take me to the sweet release of sleep anytime Nixon (Frank Langella) himself wasn't speaking.     

I don't like sympathizing with a man who I know in my mind was as addicted to power as lonely housewives are to soap operas, causing him to bend rules and orchestrate blatant cover ups. Even as I sat there I felt myself admiring Nixon for his intelligence and near unbreakable desire to lie and get away with it. 

Near the middle of the film, however, I realized it was not Nixon that convinced me, but that self important weasel Ron Howard – the great manipulator of the silver screen. I felt betrayed by my own susceptibility to his propaganda and firmly resolved not to buy into it. Such were my nerves at the end of the film that I had devoured both sets of fingernails and had moved onto grinding my molars whenever I felt a devious attempt to pull one of my withered heartstrings.

So thanks Opie. Your film forced me to constantly vacillate between the states of boredom or drug-junkie anxiety. You should be very proud.

This is a harrowing tale of confession, as we wait to see that churlish brute Richard Nixon confess his involvement in the Watergate scandal to the world and finally say that yes, he is a criminal. Unfortunately his great adversary is a pompous, air-headed fop from the slums of Cambridge. Michael Sheen, who plays the interviewer David Frost, is about as formidable of an adversary as a mud worm is to a king cobra. I'm convinced that they hired him because his face has a permanent glazed, confused expression on it and at any 'blue steel' moment he can change it into a smile so brazen his ears almost fly off his head to make space for his grin.

First, it’s a heavy dose of Ron Howard mind control. Then, it’s Michael Sheen’s facial contortions posing as charm or dialogue that sounds like Christopher Hitchens after an hour at his office X-Mas party. Frankly, it’s a miracle I didn’t wake up and find myself at an AA meeting hosted by Foster Brooks.

Any twit can see that the nerdy assistant, James Reston Jr. (Sam Rockwell), could have carried off Frost's character better. What magnificent talent cast those two roles? And then the classic Hollywood inclusion of the mysterious and therefore irrelevant love interest for David Frost. First of all if the role in the movie is to be the attractive actress it's best not to hire a spoiled private school narcotics rat from the bottom of the barrel. Yes, Rebecca Hall, I mean you. Nixon's assistant Diane Sawyer (Kate Jennings Grant) had more sex appeal than her. Hell, the sexual tension was stronger during the sudden appearance of Kevin Bacon (Jack Brennan) and his complete loss of dignity as he fawns all over Nixon in a heady mixture of post-Vietnam homoerotic fantasy.  

After processing the intestinal discomfort this film causes by coming so close and then being trampled by the casting decisions, you ponder Howard's drive to make it at all. We all know what happened to Nixon. Perhaps seeing him as a man, as an old, lonely, shadow of a man, is something we all needed to see.

Yet somehow, because of this movie, Nixon will have yet another chance at a post-mortem ass-rape of American dignity as scores of people are befuddled by its message: Nixon sucked but in a good way, like normal people suck and make mistakes. But they are good mistakes because he was a man...blah blah blah. At the end of it all the only people who will appreciate this movie are Kevin Bacon fans who have another movie to add to their "six degrees" repertoire, and post-grad political history majors who would have been just as happy spending their lonely night watching the History Channel. 

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Historic revisionism by Ron Howard?

Warren's picture

Oy, that's all we need. When did Howard become a GOP apologist?

And what role did he choose in this film for his ghastly, no-talent hack of a brother Clint?

Reality Revisionism by Warren?

Coaster's picture

That's all we need.

Frost/Nixon began life as a stage play.  The movie is this play done for the big screen.  David Frost saw the play and said that it was 85% accurate.  Not bad for a dramatization.  The televised conversations between Nixon and Frost were reproduced word for word just as they were seen on TV those many years ago. 

You must have confused Ron Howard with Oliver Stone.  Now go see Apollo 13, 'cause Houston, we got a problem.

BTW, Ron Howard mads an ad (With Andy Grifity) supporting Obams. 

This is actually a pretty good film.

HS's picture

Okay, I agree that the Rebecca Hall character didn't have much purpose in the script, but other than that, I really enjoyed the film.  It's up there with Apollo 13 as one of Ron Howard's best, and is better than A Beautiful Mind, which may have won Opie his first Oscar but which was ultimately a bit slow overall.  I liken "Frost/Nixon" to films like "Thirteen Days" and "All the President's Men" in that even though you know the outcome, the film still has you on the edge of your seat.  Great work by Frank Langella as Tricky Dick, especially in a powerful scene where he drunkenly calls Frost and unleashes some demons from his closet that date back to high school.

 

HS

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