Friday, May 22, 2009


Frost/Nixon (Ron Howard, 2008) [5]

Having just read Rick Perlstein's sprawling yet engrossing Nixonland, it's really hard to garner any sympathy for Richard Nixon. So, seeing a film that paints a conflicting, humanizing picture of Nixon is not going to work for me. Frost/Nixon more problems than just it's portrayal of Richard Nixon. It hamstrung by Ron Howard's pedestrian direction and a story that add no more insight than history has already told. The film attempts to dramatize the events that led to the David Frost/Richard Nixon to a point that almost makes them ridiculous. Frost is portrayed a lightweight celebrity that also has to somehow overcome all this adversity just to get the interviews. Then, in the only way he becomes serious about it is when Nixon yanks him around for entire first interview session. It's all meant to create drama and tension to the big payoff, when Frost gets some sort of mild apology out of Nixon for his role in Watergate. It all may have been interesting but the way its framed and the way Howard film it give it nothing more than the feel of the standard Hollywood prestige picture. This bleeds into the phone conversation sequence between the two men in between interviews. A lot of the emotion in the scene seems honest, as one of the key points of Perlstein's book was Nixon's constant inferiority/hatred towards those he deemed more fortunate or privileged than him. The problem with it filmically is that it is too much of a plot manipulation piece, a scene there just to give Frost an opportunity to find an opening in Nixon. As a examination of Nixon's character it fits but it's too stagy for a film. Aside from that scene, Frank Langella's performance is the only aspect that I could mildly recommend out of this film. And there hasn't been a more overrated director maybe in history than Ron Howard. If you want maudlin portrayals of history, he's your guy.

1 comment:

Rick Perlstein said...

And here I thought *I* had painted a conflicting, humanizing picture of Nixon!

IMHO, F/N isn't about Nixon. It's about TV, and has fresh and interesting things to say about the medium.