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I have a personal dislike for Ron Howard as a director, a result of my sensibilities mainly, I suspect. Howard strikes me as a particularly heavy-handed, didactic director who has wasted many great concepts on mediocre films (out of 18 films I've seen by him, I only genuinely liked "Apollo 13". I was expecting the worst with "Frost/Nixon", but instead was met with one of the most entertaining films in a while, and a remarkably well-acted, even-handed, quality character study. I suppose I should have been prepared for a quality screenplay given the success of this Peter Morgan play in New York and London, but I was hardly expecting something this good. It's glib, funny, well-paced, expertly-structured, clever, observant, and intelligent. It creates a fascinating Nixon, played brilliantly by the great Frank Langella, though this is not quite up there with the likes of Oliver Stone's sadly under-appreciated "Nixon" or Robert Altman's endlessly fascinating "Secret Honor". The film is almost surprisingly well-directed, although there is a bit of the old TV trick of shaking the camera a bit, panning too often, to give the illusion of motion and energy when there's really just people in a room talking. The conversation's interesting enough, there's no need for that. Oh well, I suppose I am nitpicking.
As far as Nixon movies go this is lightweight entertainment with plenty of comic moments largely leading up to two or three scenes of real human vulnerability. Aside from these scenes (which are truly, truly excellent), Peter Morgan conceives the meeting as something of a chess match with the unpredictability of a boxing match. To use J. Hoberman's words 'a prize fight between two comeback-hungry veterans, only one of whom could win'. On paper this could have been very heavy on amateur psychoanalysis and low on entertainment value but Morgan and I suppose Howard as well are clever enough to have some fun with the idea. This is not a criticism at all, the film has moments of surprisingly real depth and intellectualism, but overall the nature of the script works in its favor, makes those scenes more interesting, more ultimately rewarding.
"Frost/Nixon" is an entertaining, exciting film, around as populist as I expected but in a very different way. This is the sort of writing we don't see enough of, particularly not in today's films. It's vaguely reminiscent of a particularly good BBC television drama. The cast is certainly good enough for that. Langella and Michael Sheen are outstanding, both manage to accurately portray the real-life men they are portraying while still adding some characterization and mannerisms of their own. Langella's Tony-award winning performance might be up for Oscar consideration soon, but Sheen's Frost almost upstages him at times. No heavy-handedness, no political 'messages', just a fun, clever script and a great cast in a well-made film.
The acting duo of Frank Langella & Micheal Sheen (Nixon & Frost) are set on a collision course that finds two deeply passionate personalities at the mercy of their insatiable desires. Both actor's portrayals are a study of affectation and body language, pleasurably accurate and yet not simply an impersonation. Indeed, the film never strays from the distinct Howard format that breathes so much life (read intimacy) into this familiar and yet mysterious relationship that exists for so many people who lived through the exceptional event.
Make no mistake, this is by no means a two man show, quite the contrary. In fact, the wealth of supporting roles is perhaps the finest feature of this production. Bacon's devoted and stalwart marine practically glints of gun metal and polished shoe leather. The trio of Gould, Platt and Rockwell portray effortlessly the roles of the men who, brick by brick, constructed the platform from which Frost so successfully and serendipitously elicited one of the greatest unspoken confessions of all time. Rebecca Hall is delicious and demure, constantly filling scenes with her elegant presence.
Perhaps the richest praise should be reserved for Peter Morgan, who has, without question, penned a truly captivating and insightful story that delivers not only a satisfying comprehension of a complex time in US history, but captures a generation's struggle to come to terms with the frailty of leadership that still echoes today.
Not to be missed, this film can be enjoyed on multiple levels and will undoubtedly be regarded as seminal for it's engrossing insight and expert depiction.
10/10 Go see it!
Morgan's source material translates smoothly onto film. Much as he did with "The Queen", he mixes a behind the scenes look at the immediate time period leading up to the historical event and closes with an almost word-for-word dramatization of said event. Also, like "The Queen", we have the excellent Michael Sheen on board, who after playing Tony Blair now takes on the mannerisms of the legendary British talk-show host and man-about-town David Frost. Director Ron Howard nicely interweaves archival news footage, faux-post interviews with the secondary players, and the dramatic reenactments of the actual Frost/Nixon interviews. Howard's studied but pedestrian style of direction lends itself well to this type of docudrama as he allows the actual events to speak for themselves and the fine performances to shine on their own. Though it takes quite awhile to get where it's going, the final interview where Frost takes Nixon head-on about the Watergate cover-up is a payoff well worth the wait.
Of course the most fascinating aspect of the film is Frank Langella's portrayal of a shamed and swollen Richard Nixon. He plays him as a fallen man desperate for an act of contrition but still in too deep with his old trickery and slick ways. His performance, and the way it connects with the audience, is wonderfully layered. On one level, we have an aged actor thought to be well past his prime firing back on all cylinders in a renaissance role that will likely lead to a showering of award nominations. The way the film reduces his performance to that one lingering close-up after being steamrolled by Frost on the last day of the interview leaves a lasting impression. But it also works on another level as it is meant to represent the reduction of Nixon's political life to that one lingering close-up on the television monitor when he realized it's all over for him. The audience members who remember watching the interviews and can picture the actual close-up they saw on their TV screens are now allowed to share a communion with the audience members who weren't even born yet and now only have a memory of Langella's face on the silver screen. In that sense, Langella truly became Nixon, and his performance will not soon be forgotten.
It's important that the fakery should work well, because the movie must provide lots of closeups that those in the balcony didn't see. So long as it works, the feeling of TV interviews is better achieved in the film, and the actors don't have to yell. The camera, sometimes annoyingly jerky, but in the best moments simply direct and relentless, does their yelling for them.
So I'm saying this is a winner. Peter Morgan after all did the screenplay, and he's no stranger to such efforts--notable examples of his film writing are in The Last King of Scotland and The Queen; a rather less notable one is The Other Boleyn Girl. The flaws are simply in the events. For three of the interview parts, till it gets to Watergate in the fourth, Nixon seems to be winning. Despite a dramatic intervention by Nixon support staffer Col Jack Brennan (Kevin Bacon) to prevent an abject breakdown, Nixon does buckle under in part four. But his admissions still remain in the realm of generality, and there is the question: does anything said on TV really matter? The audience for a West End or Broadway play is a bit different from the popcorn crowd and how appealing this film will be to the mainstream is uncertain. Needless to say it's all talk and minimal action. For students of contemporary American history nonetheless the topic is thrilling. Frost used his own money for down payments. In need of cash and highly mercenary, Nixon used the celebrity agent Swiftie Lazar (Toby Jones) to get $600,000 for the interviews. Frost lost sponsors and the US networks refused to come aboard. He made down payments from his own funds and borrowed. He hired two journalists, Bob Zelnick (Oliver Platt) and James Reston (Sam Rockwell), to do support research. Reston was a firebrand opponent of Nixon. He refused to participate unless there was a commitment to shame Nixon and get him to admit he did wrong in Watergate and betrayed the country's trust.
The issue was whether Frost had the depth to tackle a job like this. He wanted a Watergate confession too, but he let Nicon play him with small talk (despite the man's claim that he was no good at it) and temporize with lengthy self-serving reminiscences that blunted most of Frost's pointed questions. This is where Zelick and especially Reston come in to give a sense of urgency. Again the film excels where the play couldn't in showing Nixon's walk out to his car after each encounter, jubilant at first, pathetic at the end.
Ultimately both in the play and the film, Frost's victory seems a hollow one, of little significance to morality or history. This is above all a story about television. In that arena, this was a coup. and there is great drama in how close Frost's project came to failing. As the encounters got under way, he was losing every sponsor, and later he lost his Australian show, having some time earlier lost his American one. The film tells us they all came back, and then some. Frost never really seems to have reentered the world of American television, but he has had many projects in England and is said now to be "worth £20 million," with a live weekly current affairs program on Al Jazeera English. Nixon is dead, and though he may have won three rounds out of four in the Frost interviews, his legacy is tainted.
The show belongs to Sheen and Langella, but Bacon is excellent as the stiff, loyal Col. Brennan, and Sam Rockwell strong in an unusually serious role for him. As Nixon's somewhat lost wife Pat, the child star of The Bad Seed Patty McCormack is touching. There are lots of other actors, far more than in the stage production, and the best thing is they don't get in the way. San Clemente also plays a significant role. The brightness and beauty of Nixon's ocean-side estate helps dramatize his depression by contrast. There were doubts about putting Howard in charge of the screen version, but they were groundless.
The morning after the Watergate break-in, I brought the newspaper to my university, showing the brief article to everyone who would look. "Tricky Dick is at the bottom of this" I insisted "NO! He wouldn't be that STUPID!" most of them replied.
In FROST/NIXON we get an insightful look at a gifted, multi-faceted, conflicted personality in all its haunting glory. Nixon was many things. Stupid was not one of them. A Ron Howard Movie about a TV interview? I was very skeptical, to say the least. One viewing made me a believer. Ron Howard has crafted an instant Classic masterpiece. Ripe with couched metaphors and subtle tripwire dialog, the film's power flows from Ron Howard's ability to present us with the cinematic equivalent of a 100 minute TV close-up of its title characters.
FROST/NIXON turns a microscope on both Nixon's strengths and a shopping list of inner demons. Simultaneously vindictive, petty, rancorous, insecure and ever ready to play the victim, more than anything else, Frank Langella's uncanny performance evokes not hatred, but great pathos. History is replete with flawed geniuses. But only during the past half century has there been a media obsessed with exposing them for the entire world to see.
Michael Sheen is inspired as David Frost, undergoing a great on screen catharsis. And the re-creation of the interviews is sublime! Cleverly and convincingly Presented as two deftly talented sparring partners, FROST/NIXON is an immensely entertaining/informative slice of history that should satisfy even the most discerning cinematic gourmet.
Any comments, questions or observations, in English or Español, are most welcome!
This is a film based on a play that neither felt trapped in staginess nor weakly expanded with just the stage dialogue delivered exactly but in a variety of outdoor locales. I have to give Peter Morgan a lot of credit here. I saw the play in London and wondered throughout production of the film how they would escape its theatricality. Many recent films from plays like Proof, Closer, The Producers, have failed to throw off the shackles of stage feel. Not that all bad films, many served as a good way to see the play if you hadn't had the chance, but they weren't necessarily compelling films in their own right. What is so impressive about Morgan's work here is that in adapting his own play he has not been precious, he has not tried to enforce his already successful stage-play onto a film director he has wholly reworked it from beginning to end and yet retained all the gravity and drama that the play elicited. If you saw the play everything key is here and yet you can feel the difference the pacing is changed, the power achieved in different ways.
For this Howard also deserves credit. To have filmed the play as it was would have been disastrous on film one long two-hander scene after another, duelling narrators. And given the reverence the play has enjoyed a less experienced director could have fallen into this trap or that of simply changing the settings, but Howard knows when we need quick cuts, when a long drawn out piece that worked on stage needs to be reduced to a couple of lines and a post-scene reaction, and when he needs to hold with a scene and let it play between the two leads. This happens in several impressive moments in the latter half of the film.
For some this might constitute the films biggest flaw however. Morgan and Howard can't escape the fact that in the final stages of the film it is the head-to-head scenes of Frost and Nixon that are key and they must stay with them more. This is necessary, but it sadly means that the supporting players, so well established and broadened out to expand the scope in the first half, fall be the wayside. A superb Toby Jones as Irving 'Swifty' Lazar, Matthew Macfadyen as John Birt and always reliable Oliver Platt as Bob Zelnick all but disappear and only Kevin Bacon and Sam Rockwell play any significant role beyond the two leads in the final stages. This is a shame. It may best serve the story creating the sense of claustrophobia necessary to keep you gripped but it does feel like a film of two halves because of it and it noticeable.
Frank Langella and Michael Sheen are superb, as they were on stage, and Langella will take a lot of beating for the Oscar this year. There are many moments here when I was so involved I forgot I wasn't watching the real Nixon. It's not that he looks that like Nixon but he is so real you believe it completely and have to remind yourself you're watching an actor.
Platt is reliably Platt. Bacon is also his typically understated solid presence doing a lot with little. Toby Jones is fantastic in a small role instantly memorable; and Rebecca Hall builds on a series of strong performances. But in the supporting cast it is Rockwell that stands out. Sure, he has the most to do but he is completely in this role, he manages to sink into the role which is something he rarely does. He matches the skill he showed in Lawn Dogs and Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind here and it is great to see him back at his best.
I thoroughly recommend this film.
My reluctance had to do with the expectation that it will offer nothing new to somebody who lived through the Watergate years and saw the Frost interviews (although remembering surprisingly little of them).
Ron Howard's film is anything but ho-hum - if anything it's a bit too gussied up to be exciting. There is an element of discernible manipulation of the audience, but mostly it works, and you don't long resist it.
The (relatively) unsung hero of the film besides Howard, Frank Langella's tremendous Nixon, and Michael Sheen's excellent Frost is the screenwriter: once again Peter Morgan (of "The Last King of Scotland" and "The Queen") engages mind and heart, and doesn't let go. Sam Rockwell's James Reston, Jr. and Oliver Platt's Bob Zelnick (Frost's two collaborators) are outstanding, and Kevin Bacon's Nixon-worshipping Jack Brennan is the actor's best work in a long time.
Morgan and Howard manage to make the viewer think constantly of another criminal President without saying or showing anything overt - they just let history, past and present, speak.
I had a strange, uncomfortable thought watching "Frost/Nixon": even if some future film "humanizes" (not excuses) Bush the way Nixon comes through this one, W. would still remain a malevolent midget against Nixon's accomplishments and actual *brain*. How far we have fallen.
But what Frost/Nixon - and in particular Langella - does is give humanity to the man. We see his arrogance, his love of power, his need to win (hinted at wonderfully in a moment when he is jogging in his San Clemente home to rousing music), but we also see his inner conflicts, his regrets, the fact that perhaps more than simply his crimes regarding Watergate haunted him - that the impact of his decisions on South East Asia were not entirely remote from him, either. And in a sequence that I will not reveal, to avoid spoiling the plot, we also see a hint of his madness, for it is that, I think, rather than senility. (You have to see it to understand this.)
Ron Howard and playwright/screenwriter Peter Morgan have achieved a remarkable feat in adapting the stage play, which sadly I did not see. Not for a moment does this feel stage bound; instead it is a compelling human portrait of two men - for Frost is fascinating, too, and Michael Sheen captures both his much criticized (at the time) surface gloss and also his deeper fears - but above all of the impact that each of our decisions, large and small, and not least if you are leader of the "Free World," have on us all.
The film implied that Frost had gotten Nixon to admit to something no-one else could (i.e. something illegal), thereby condemning himself to political wilderness. However, instead I was left feeling that Nixon was an OK guy - an intelligent, quick witted, sincere and strong guy who did what it took to get things done. Whereas Frost came across as a chancer, who was a bit lucky. At the end I wondered what the purpose of the movie was.
I have now seen the actual footage of the interviews and can only conclude that the movie's purpose was to show Nixon in a much more favourable light than he would've come across in the real interviews - because in the real interviews, he stinks. In the real interviews you can see the panic in his face, you can see the often painfully contrived shows of friendliness in his mannerisms and you can hear the uncoordinated logic of his answers. Whereas in the movie he's smooth with his answers and his mannerisms.
Any Brits out there should liken Nixon to our very own Gordon Brown - a man as bereft of any social attractiveness as Nixon. By getting Langella to play Nixon, it's like getting Alec Guiness to play Brown. I.e. a brilliant actor, but a million miles away from the truth.
And THAT'S the problem with these recent "real life" movies that focus on people in high offices of state - The Queen, The Special Relationship and now Frost/Nixon. The films make the people in high office appear to be totally articulate, very quick witted, sincere, at times funny and always strong in character and determination. Whereas the truth is anything but that. We've seen footage of a supposedly eloquent Clinton and he is anything but. We've seen the Queen deliver her speeches and "sincerity" is never a word you'd associate with her.
I know the counter argument is that it is only a movie and we shouldn't take it literally. But that's just it, by giving the film "real" characters and "real story" lines, the film makers are implying it is real. In fact, it is the very suggestion that it might be factual that draws the audiences in. Otherwise where would the attraction be of seeing a film about a fictional President's relationship with a fictional Prime Minster? Or a fictional queen's reaction to the death of a fictional daughter in law? There would be no attraction. So the makers have lured us paying public to part with our hard earned cash to see something that promises fact but instead delivers fiction.
So yes, I enjoyed the "story", but ended up resenting its total fiction.
The acting was good throughout the cast. Frank Langella was good but not spectacular as Richard Nixon. In my mind I will have Anthony Hopkins as Nixon not Langella. In Nixon strange emotions were brought up towards the man himself, in here Nixon seems to be quite a very good man. This I had a problem with, I liked the approach of him not being shown as an evil man but I did not like the fact he appeared to better than he was. I felt that Michael Sheen stole the show from Langella and in fact played better than him. His performance was more diverse and versatile and of course the movie is about him interviewing Nixon not Nixon interviewing Frost.
The directing was solid as usual of Ron Howard. Yet with the character of Nixon he seemed to be pushing the idea of sympathy upon us for Richard Nixon. When it comes to feeling emotions such as sympathy, it should not be pushed upon you. Many scenes though were quite intense but this movie was carried by the writing of Peter Morgan. The nice quick dialog between the characters is what really set the tone of the film above all.
I liked Frost/Nixon but it is not a powerful movie. It sets a good tone at the beginning and stays with it throughout. Like other Ron Howard movies it doesn't take a giant leap of greatness. It does have moments of greatness and a few memorable scenes but not enough to really stand the test of time. I do not believe it deserves its best picture, best director or best actor nominations as other men and movies have had more powerful and affecting influence this year.
Beginning with President Richard Nixon's (Frank Langella reprising his role from the play) resignation following the Watergate scandal, the movie jumps to a few years later where the ex-president has been demoted to giving talks at luncheons, and interviews for money. Meanwhile down under in Australia, a wildly popular talk show host named David Frost (Michael Sheen) comes up with the ultimate publicity stunt; winch out the confession the American people never got from their former president. Nixon has other plans however, seeing only easy money for answering some fluff questions over a four day period. Frost assembles a team of researchers and experts including Sam Rockwell as James Reston Jr., Mathew McFayden as John Burt and Oliver Platt as Bob Zelnick to ensure his suave defeat of his opponent and secure their place in infamy.
Frost/Nixon succeeds in overcoming a number of hurdles. It flourishes, even if you have no knowledge of the events of Watergate, or have no interest in American politics, but will thrill those who do. From what I understand, certain liberties were taken with the facts surrounding the endlessly notorious interviews, but more often then not, Frost/Nixon is less of a political film, then it is a sword and shield bout to the death; an intense duel between these two intellectuals, and how their confidence and overconfidence sways the interviews in both their favours before the gripping final outcome
Frank Langella is sure to get an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the infamous president, but Michael Sheen should by no means be overlooked. He is equally solid, and to some extent has the more difficult role; in keeping his own against the veteran stage actors larger then life embodiment of the president. We also get fantastic supporting work from Kevin Bacon as Nixon's aid who's two-fold admiration and quiet pity and embarrassment is tragic and very affecting. From a visual standpoint, Howard's film is glossy and superbly shot without feeling to large in its scope. It is intimate and immediate with a keen sense of the times.
Perhaps the biggest achievement of the movie is the handling of the Nixon character. Howard manages to capture both his corruptness and smug pompousness while showing him as a true human; with some sympathy but mostly just not as a faceless monster and without a blunt bias. So don't be turned away simply because of the films 'political' backbone, because Frost/Nixon is some of the most simultaneously intelligent and entertaining film-making of the decade.
9.5 / 10.0
Read all my reviews at : http://simonsaysmovies.blogspot.com
No one can resist it, much less a TV audience. In my student's essay about the power of media -which is the film's essential theme- I wrote that the camera not only changes perceptions but actions too. As long as there is an instance of mediation between two people, something will cease to be natural, and the talent of those who control the media is to make it imperceptible. So, when Frost (Michael Sheen) decides to interview Nixon, with his own money because no American channel will accept to pay a British interviewer, he gives the fallen President a golden opportunity to talk to American people. Nixon (Frank Langella) advised by Swifty Lazar (Toby Jones) accepts the challenge, a TV show will reach the people quicker and simpler than a memoirs book.
It all comes to this : either Nixon shows a new shining image three years after the Watergate and his disastrous resignation, the only one in History, or Frost confronts a man to his responsibilities and forces him to admit his guilt. That's what Frost's partner John Birt (Matthew McFayden), Bob Zelnick, a TV journalist (Oliver Platt) and James Reston, Jr. (Rockwell) expect from the interview, anything but making Nixon sympathetic. With these opposite challenges, the premises could be that of a boxing match. And "Frost/Nixon" is indeed a duel (the slash is relevant) with no holds barred between huge and flawed egos, starting with Frost, a cocky womanizer trying to forget that he was basically exiled in Australia to host forgettable entertainment shows, the refusals from TV studios to sponsor his project will finish to teach him lessons of humility.
But Nixon plays in another league, being the epitome of 'unpopular culture', a tragic figure who destroyed what were left of American dreams, including his own. In 1995, Oliver Stone offered a remarkable view on Nixon, with no concession. Still, we couldn't help but feeling sympathy for a man entrapped by both his ideals and demons. The movie was remarkably served by Anthony Hopkins' performance but now, I wonder if it doesn't have something to do with the personality of Nixon himself, ambivalent to the best, with this mix of fascination and repulsion only great men achieve to inspire. Maybe he was the last 'larger-than-life' President. Anyway, he's not an amateur and during the interview, he's like Goliath ready to frost David.
Goliath Nixon also has a redoubtable right-hand man (Kevin Bacon) who works as an adviser and he knows himself the traps of TV, he whose sweating under the upper lip cost him the Presidential campaign in 1960, so he wouldn't make the same mistakes. David Frost IS the rookie and when the first interview (we might as well call it a round) starts, Frost bluntly opens with the Watergate "why didn't you burn the files?" Nixon is startled first but uses the question to pose as a victim of a system supported by his predecessors. Trying an uppercut, Frost was literally knocked down, tasting the toughness of an opponent who meant business. And as viewers, we're satisfied to see Frost put in his place for a moment, before he could recover.
The measure of the thrills provided by the interviews is because both have everything to win, yet so much to lose. Nixon is in a dead-end and any attempt to gain his popularity back is welcome, and by throwing himself in that crazy project, Frost lost his show, 600 000 dollars and jeopardized his career, maybe more and I'm not sure his newly conquered girlfriend, Caroline Cushing (Rebecca Hall) would've stayed longer with him. In her one shining moment that doesn't rely on her distractingly beautiful looks, she notices that Frost doesn't like being questioned. And that weakness shows with Nixon's offensive remarks before the interview, destabilizing him on his effeminate shoes or his 'masculine attitude' with Caroline. No holds barred indeed, the two men bet a lot in this interview, and it's like two destinies crossing one another.
The remarkable thing about Ron Howard's movie is that we all know it ended with a heartfelt confession from Nixon, one of the most memorable and defining TV moments of the 70's. But it's all in the process, on how Frost will finally take the edge over Nixon and find the vulnerable spots, or use his adversary's weapons against him, not through cynicism or aggressiveness but the true belief that his project is fair and for once, the variety show producer must act like a journalist. A man who failed as journalist must not interview the one who failed as a President. And this is why they were so close, yet so different from each other.
It is between the two men and the others are only spectators, filling the film with many interesting comments about the evolution of the match, and what lessons they learned from the confrontation. A man should feel important enough to believe in his rightness but never such as he can escape from his responsibilities. The lessons served both men, and the ending is twice happy as each one seemed to have triumphed over his demons. Sometimes, truth hurts, but how relieving it can also be!
As for Michael Sheen, who co-starred and played David Frost, he was excellent as well--but he did not dominate the movie like Langella and really couldn't due to his character. Making Frost any different would have been unrealistic and the viewer is naturally drawn more to the Nixon character--even if they dislike him.
As for the movie, it's a film that is probably going to appeal to you more if you know a lot about the Watergate affair. This means that younger folks who didn't live through and remember the 1970s will get less out of it unless they know their history well. As for me, I'm a retired history teacher, so even if I was only a kid when Nixon resigned, I understand what had occurred and the figures involved. So, when names of the various people involved are mentioned or what exactly Nixon's involvement was in the cover-up are discussed, it would sure help to know the basics. If you are fuzzy on this, reading through Wikipedia or another website wouldn't hurt.
Looking at the film's box office receipts, I could assume that because Watergate is a rather distant memory is why the film made so little money. After all, the acting and writing certainly were not at issue--they were top-notch. And, I must also admit, the film was quite cerebral and there aren't a lot of things to appeal to teens or someone who likes explosions or raunchy comedies (you do get to see a gratuitous butt near the end, but this isn't enough to appeal to this crowd). An amazingly good film.
For all many of us who lived through the Nixon presidency and Watergate, this is not the stuff of nostalgia or happy reminiscence. And when the Nixon tapes were published and his bigotry against just about everyone was revealed in explicit "expletive deleted" language, it was time to get disgusted all over again.
Here, portrayed by Frank Langella, we see Nixon as a lonely, vulnerable, angry, and bitter human being, a man who's made a bed he must sleep in for the next twenty years. We also see a manipulative and highly intelligent individual who, despite a great deal of success, had no self-worth. It's the feeling of being an outsider, of never being good enough, that led him to some atrocious decisions.
It's Langella's performance and Michael Sheen's wonderful performance as David Frost -- playboy, comedian, talk show host, and party-giver turned investigative journalist -- that anchor "Frost/Nixon." They are given great support by Kevin Bacon as Nixon's protective assistant, Jack Brennan, Sam Rockwell as James Reston, determined that Nixon pay for Watergate, as well as Oliver Platt, Matthew Mcfadyen, and Toby Jones.
I found the determination of Frost as he attempted to raise financing for the interviews and get networks interested -- with no luck -- very admirable and inspiring. And his gut instinct paid off for him big time.
I transcribed an interview with Nixon that took place in his home in the 1980s, as well as a speech he made during one of the Presidential election periods. He was a brilliant speaker, and as an interviewee, when the interview was over, he engaged the reporter in a very friendly personal conversation. In the end, both those listening experiences made me sad, as did this film. For everything he achieved, Richard Nixon had undeveloped gifts and potential. He robbed the world of a lot more than the ability to trust government. But in the end, as the film shows, he robbed himself the most.
Ron Howard directs "Frost/Nixon" a thrilling story with the behind the scenes of one of the most famous broadcasts ever presented in television, and that is the meeting between Former President Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) and English TV host David Frost (Michael Sheen) after the President's impeachment. This meeting will be just like a long awaited boxing match between two heavyweights and it will take all of their power, intelligence and courage to make of this event something memorable and it will be memorable. Behind these two fearless men there's a great team assisting, played by Kevin Bacon, Sam Rockwell, Matthew McFayden, Rebecca Hall, Oliver Platt and Toby Jones.
Transforming a play of success into a film is a very difficult job but writer Peter Morgan adapted it perfectly, with wonderful dialogs exchange between Sheen and Langella and all the actors, balancing drama, comedy, heated discussions, and of course, using quotes of the real interview, one of the most successful events ever presented on TV, very historical.
Allied with a magnificent screenplay there's a highest quality of the performances. Langella might sound and look like a Nixon caricature but he manages to portray the President in his emotional and darker sides, a figure that needs to be doing something useful other than just be a retired politician, always in the arena even if that arena is a TV show where he might get trapped with his demons, face to face with the American public. Sheen makes of his Frost a entertaining man who gives a leap into a whole new field (a serious interview with a former president) where he needs to find a way to survive or win what could be the battle for his career, his reputation, but more than that he wants to be a star in America making the interview of the Century. Two men without their masks in front of a whole audience trying to win a battle where the winners are us the viewers delighted with such incredible moments. The supporting cast is top-notch and is amazing to see all of them together in such a brilliant project.
Explosive in its content, thrilling in its presentations without losing the rhythm and the movement, "Frost/Nixon" comes as one of the most absorbing films ever made. It was everything I expected and more! Brilliant! 10/10
Plot: A dramatic retelling of the post-Watergate television interviews between British talk-show host David Frost and former president Richard Nixon.
Frost/Nixon, directed by Ron Howard and with a gripping screenplay by Peter Morgan, and the film is based on his play, is a stunning and extremely sharp vision of the summer of 1977. All the cast was really scored-up. But, specially, Langella and Sheen were superb. It contains a really carefully-and-well-crafted realistic 70's scenario. Both, editing and photography were great. One of the could-be contenders of 2009 Academy Awards. The reason is that, this "stylistic game" very carefully made with a very solid structure, with its amazing photography, excellent artwork, brilliant screenplay, superb performances, very good music and a fantastic direction by Ron Howard, and, let me say that this is one of the most exigent movies that he's ever done, it'll get more that one Academy Award nomination. It's one of those bare movies that after seeing it, it leaves you shaking, ice-cold and that you cannot get it out of your head.
Verdict: In the style of Oliver Stone's classic "JFK", Howard accomplishes a true work of art. With a little bit of luck, this'll get into the Top 250. A film that advantageously accomplishes, with an extremely visionary "politic" argument, arriving to the land of its narrative searches. A film with an impeccable production and impeccable performances. A movie that talks to us about how we respond to truth and lie. Perfect. A film that will transcend through time. A brilliant pick for the season. A Great Movie.
Howard's film is fairly dispassionate in its treatment of both men. Frost, played with delicious smarm and just the right amount of arrogance by Michael Sheen, is constituted as a fledgling but highly libidinous talk show host, who in Nixon sees an opportunity to reinvigorate his celebrity and gain credibility in the US. Nixon on the other hand is in denial about his role in the Watergate scandal, fired up with a sense of self-righteousness and indignation at the liberal 'sons of bitches' that brought him down and is determined to use the encounter to rewrite history to his own advantage. Both men, it's suggested, have something to prove to themselves and their peers but mercifully the shadowy reflection angle isn't laboured en route to the tense exchanges. The climax, when it comes, manages to be both mesmerising and moving, not least because both actors meet the requirement of transcending mere impersonation and inhabit their characters. When you're told that Nixon's face betrayed, better than any trial, the personal regret, hubristic folly and watershed breakdown in the relationship between the American electorate and its government, thanks to Frank Langella, you believe it.
Nixon was not an old bumbling fool with endearing qualities. How many lingering shots of Nixon do we need with that sentimental "twinkly" piano music that tries desperately to elicit sympathy? This is no character study at all, such as Oliver Stone's Nixon tried to be, but simply an attempt at audience manipulation.
Just think how many clichés are used in this movie...don't let the lowest-common- denominator-Howard try and pull the wool over your eyes. Take for example, Frost. Is it really possible or probable that such an ambitious and "intelligent" man would study-up on Watergate only 3 days before the final interview after nearly 18 months of preparation?
As a final note the wig department should should have been fired during pre-production make-up tests.
Frost/Nixon, filmed in semi-documentary style by Ron Howard, is about the elder statesman Nixon revealing himself and his enigmatic heart of hearts to his country and the world via a relatively lightweight British interviewer, David Frost. Overnight, Frost has to remake himself from a chatty interviewer like Jay Leno into a tough interrogator like Mike Wallace. Both men have a lot at stake. According to the film, Frost's career has stagnated and he desperately needs a large breakthrough in media to be taken seriously. And he has shoved most of his personal capital into the project. Nixon was never tried for Watergate and therefore never had a platform from which his case was heard. The Frost interviews becomes Nixon's witness stand, and the television his courtroom.
The acting in this film is some of the finest of all the Oscar contenders of 2008, probably because Sheen and Langella re-prised their roles from the Broadway and London stage-play of the same name. For well over 30 years, Frank Langella has been quietly forging an acting career that has had sparse recognition for the quality of his work. In short, he is one of the most overlooked and under-appreciated talents in Hollywood films, until now. This film has allowed Langella's acting range and versatility to glow into THE performance of 2008. Langella literally becomes Nixon, shaping his subtle mannerisms and guttural tone. And yet, Langella does even one better. He somehow shapes Nixon's attitudes as if he understood who Nixon was on the inside as well as the outside. Good actors can mimic facial expressions. It takes a superb acting of uncommon ability to portray the inner qualities of his/her subject. Langella brings forth the inner Nixon in the same way that the real David Frost did 30 years ago.
Equally superb is the portrayal of David Frost by Michael Sheen. Similar to Langella, Sheen also brings forth the inner Frost, the sort of sexy rock star interviewer who must turn into something he has never been: a tough journalist probing the inner meat of his interviewee. The film very slowly shows us the transition of Frost into the kind of journalist he had to become in order to face Richard Nixon. No American president is easily knocked down and left bare by the likes of a journalist, and Nixon was no exception. Frost had to have an arsenal of not just tough questions but tough responses if he was going to be able to bring out the inner soul of Nixon. Frost had to discard the chatty sensibility of a Jay Leno or David Letterman and transform himself into the passionate journalist of a Mike Wallace or Christiane Amanpour.
A superb film and relevant to the current state of American politics. Nixon had to come clean and Frost was both his judge and his confessor, partially because the former president had resigned. The current president (as of 1/07/09), despite eight years of abuse of power, leaves the office without the stain of impeachment. He will probably never have to answer to a David Frost or a Mike Wallace. What a pity.
Ron Howard's "Frost/Nixon" is a fascinating view of Nixon through the perspective of the David Frost interviews. Langella's portrayal captures the insecurity and paranoia of Nixon, but also reveals a more intelligent and engaging aspect of him during his post Watergate years. I suppose this will automatically disqualify Langella from any chance of an Oscar nomination. I hope this isn't the case, because Langella's performance is on par with Helen Mirren's in "The Queen", maybe even better.
Ron Howard deserves kudos for directing this excellent movie. He's become one of Hollywood's best Directors of historical dramas. The supporting cast was great, Michael Sheen as David Frost was outstanding, and everyone else was excellent.
A truly outstanding film and for anyone with an interest in recent American history, not to be missed.