Jason Reitman's film (shot on 35mm by Eric Steelberg) starts off as a Fly On The Wall treatment of Gary Hart's 1988 campaign for President, before dissolving into a typical docu-drama crawl. Too bad, as the early scenes have a certain rush of excitement and even verisimilltude. The momentum gets strangely derailed just when it should be peaking - when the Donna Rice / 'Monkey Business' sex scandal hits.
Hugh Jackman is good as the candidate, even if he never quite nails Hart's voice (and, while Hart was a handsome well built guy, he didn't quite have the physique of Wolverine! - especially amusing in the lumberjack scene). Vera Farmiga and JK Simmons provide solid support as Hart's wife and campaign manager respectively. Sara Paxton gives Donna Rice a sympathy beyond the typical 'victim' stereotype, even she doesn't really look the part.
It's been well chronicled that Hart's sexual escapades helped clear the path for Bill Clinton to clear that hurdle when his scandals hit (not to mention the current Prez). What THE FRONT RUNNER also shows is that Hart lacked the empathy and human dimension that Clinton had that lead to his winning the Presidency. Both Hart and Clinton were policy wonks, but, 'Slick Willie' was a fully rounded personality - love him or hate him. Hart came off like a stolid Senator from flyover country.
THE FRONT RUNNER doesn't break any new ground (and offers little that will appeal to anybody under 50 who isn't a political junkie), despite it's fine start. Still, as an addition to the library of political films, it's an asset.