Frost/Nixon (2008)

Dir. Ron Howard
Starring: Michael Sheen, Frank Langella, Sam Rockwell, Oliver Platt, etc.

People like Penny, Grace and Mitchell probably would like this more than I did (Tony liked it.), but it’s not a film I’d strongly recommend. It’s a tough call. FWIW, I certainly don’t think it’s best picture material. I wouldn’t recommend this Joel, Don or Jill, either, although I don’t think they would hate it. As for Kevin, Marc or Chris, I can’t really tell, but if I had to guess, I think their reaction similar to Penny’s et al.

Was this interview so significant that it warranted a feature length treatment? That was the first question I had in mind when I heard about this film. After watching the film, a part of me wants to say yes, as what happens may have been significant. I hesitate to answer more definitely, however, because I don’t know what kind of impact the interview had on the country or politics.

Besides the historical significance, however, the story of how the interviews occurred and the actual interviews themselves are actually pretty dramatic and would possibly warrant a feature length treatment. Frost scrapped and clawed, against all odds, to make this interview happen. He really bet everything on it. Then there’s the interviews themselves that are interesting as a boxing match, rather an examination of the president and the politics of an era. You don’t have to care about politics to get into the interviews.

I’m making this sound better than it actually was for me. And I would say if you disagree with the following comments, you might really like the movie. As appealing as the description in the previous paragraph may sound, the film was lacking something; the film should have been more gripping than it was.

Here are some possible explanations:

* Nixon has a very distinctive look and way of speaking. If the actor playing him doesn’t get it right, the actor can be distracting. Langella did a pretty good job, but he just did not look or sound like Nixon–except as an actor playing Nixon (or a caricature).
* I think the drama and tension of the interviews was a bit flat. Part of that stem from the fact that I felt like I didn’t have the proper context–since we only see portions of the interview.
* The psychological exploration of the characters and the way that drove the drama was not explored well. The depiction of the characters (the writing, direction and acting) seemed to lack substance to me–and yet that was the crucial part of making this work. For example, what really drove Frost? Why was he taking the interviews so lightly at first and–I was going to say how did he turn things around, but we see why Frost changed. But even the scenes after his phone conversation with Nixon before the final interview, we don’t really see or connect to what’s going on inside of him. And then with Nixon, why didn’t he finally crack? How did Nixon get to that breaking point? In the film it’s so abrupt. Nixon is a very smart and tough guy.

Like Milk and Good Night and Good Luck, I think this film might have been more interesting as a documentary. A documentary could have got inside the heads of the key people to see what was going on. Indeed, the documentary style talking heads in the film were some of the more interesting parts.

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