The Front Runner (2018) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
69 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
6/10
An underwhelming convoluted unsatisfying dragged out film
TheTopDawg1 February 2019
Good performances from the leads, but the screenplay was an underwhelming convoluted mess of many quick irrelevant scenes that dragged on into pointless plot issues. Although paced quite well, at the end of the 113 min length, I found myself asking "why" and saying "so what" and "who cares". I was left unsatisfied with this film. It's a 6/10 from me, and I'd recommend a 'pass' on watching this, unless you really need to know about Senator Gary Hart's 1988 presidential run - of which you can simply Google and read up on.
17 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
5/10
A script that never develops its central character
richard-178723 November 2018
The acting in this movie is fine. The problem lies in the script. Near the end it gives Lee Hart, and even Donna Rice, scenes that allow us to get to know them somewhat, see what's inside them. We never get that for Gary Hart, who is far and away the most important character in this movie. We never see what made Hart so popular, especially with younger voters. We never get to see him explain important issues to the masses, though we are told that he does that very effectively. We never get scenes with him in which he gives us a hint of why he risks his career with his extra-marital affairs. He comes off as very cold, very distant, and that's problematic for a central character. As a result, we have no reason to feel anything when his career is finally destroyed.

To an extent, this is about the media's intrusion into the privacy of public officials, but that isn't examined. Nor is there any attempt to suggest a change over time to today, when a sitting president can boast about extra-marital affairs and not suffer any loss of popularity.

In the end, I was left wondering why this story was being told in 2018. It doesn't make us understand Hart, or feel sorry for him. It doesn't tell us anything either about 1988 or our own era. It doesn't make Hart a character we can feel for when he falls, because it never shows him to us as a great if flawed man. (Several characters tell us he is great, but that's not the same thing.) What was the point of filming it?
18 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Jason Reitman's Second Film Of The Year Makes For Thought-Provoking Entertainment
roblesar9921 September 2018
When I checked out the reviews for THE FRONT RUNNER after walking out of the theater, I was surprised to find that it was being met with a generally mixed critical reception. That's not to say that THE FRONT RUNNER is some sort of masterpiece, but I definitely thought it was an interesting film, and one that feels rather timely in this day and age (for reasons that are quite obvious). Perhaps the best thing I can say about the film is that it manages to avoid the on-the-nose writing that plagued BLACKKKLANSMAN in more than a few scenes. Reitman smartly lets the film speak for itself, letting the audience draw their own connection between the events that torpedoed Senator Gary Hart's campaign over thirty years ago and similar events that have plagued other politicians over the last few years. If there's one consequence to such an approach, it's that Reitman presents a lot of ideas without ever taking a firm stand on them, failing to elaborate on ideas that almost demand further analysis - an approach that will certainly rub some the wrong way. That being said, there's a lot to enjoy here, from Hugh Jackman's great performance to Jason Reitman's directing (I quite liked the way he utilized the camera here) to Rob Simonsen's low-key electronic score to the rest of the supporting cast (with an affecting Vera Farmiga being the obvious standout). It even reminded me of a bit of I, TONYA in its analysis of the press (how would American history have been affected if not for their obsession over Hart's love life?).

One more thing, though: it might have just been the theater I watched this in, but the sound mixing in this was atrocious. I want to watch this film again with subtitles just so that I can understand the other half of what the characters were saying.
30 out of 41 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
A worthy, if a bit bumpy, political film with solid performances
gortx11 November 2018
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.
19 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
A vehicle for Jackman, but little else
rorymarsh0016 October 2018
'The Front Runner' is a film that, despite its heavy political background, is more focused on the personal story of its titular character, Gary Hart. Reitman's film both benefits and suffers for this, depending on the type of audience member you are. Should you be expecting a dense political drama, evolving from a campaign and policy focused narrative into more of a personal crisis, you may be disappointed. The political background is present, but irrelevant in the overarching narrative, instead revealing itself to purely be a character-driven drama. 'The Front Runner' is not about the difficulties of running for president, but more about how the media can tarnish one's livelihood, and their treatment to Hart, whilst arguably justified, appears alarmingly savage when compared to Trump's America and the conspiracies plaguing his presidency. As a result, the film is surprisingly relevant today, but more down to coincidence than planned. Despite this, Jackman's performance may be a standout in his career, serving as the lifeblood of this story - his peak dramatic moments are unmatched throughout the film. This performance may well create a contender come awards season, as he skillfully fluctuates from a good-natured family man, to a paranoid mess, and everything in-between. Furthermore, the film's reluctance to take a side regarding the prevalent issues it discusses is bolstered by Jackman creating a character that is not good or bad, neither morally grey, forming someone who is undoubtable real. As a result, when Jackman is at his best, 'The Front Runner' achieves dizzying heights, serving as a relentlessly compelling character piece, however, upon his absence, which serves as a large portion of the film, it can become overly slow and laborious, leaving the audience striving for his return. Furthermore, the conclusion appears anti-climactic which, unavoidable as it may be considering this is a true story, nonetheless ends with a squeak rather than a shout. The narrative aside, the film is technically well-constructed, opening with a gorgeous long-take that establishes the time and setting with efficiency, an illusion that holds up throughout. Even the use of title-cards establishing locations are reminiscent of films made in the late-80's and early 90's, this attention to detail reminiscent of a director who cares for the source material. Reitman is, by this point, an experienced director, and his confidence is visible here, however, it feels as though the stellar direction and performances deserve more than this generic, somewhat unfulfilling narrative can provide.
30 out of 42 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
"Scandal" that no longer seems so scandalous.
bob-the-movie-man12 January 2019
The Front Runner is based on the true-story of US presidential hopeful Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman) and if you are NOT aware of the historical background (and have not seen the trailer) then you might want to skip the rest of this review - and all other reviews - so you can see the film first and let the history come as a surprise to you.

Hart was younger than most candidates: good-looking, floppy-haired and refreshingly matter of fact in his dealings with the public and the press. Any interviews had to be about his politics: not about his family life with wife Lee (Vera Farmiga) and teenage daughter Andrea (Kaitlyn Dever).

Unfortunately, Hart has a weakness for a pretty face (or ten) and his marriage is rocky as a result: "Just don't embarrass me" is Lee's one requirement. His "nothing to hide" line to an intelligent Washington Post reporter - AJ Parker (a well cast Mamoudou Athie) - leads to a half-arsed stake-out by Miami Herald reporters and incriminating pictures linking Hart to a Miami pharmaceutical saleswoman Donna Rice (Sara Paxton). As the growing press tsunami rises, and his campaign manager (J.K. Simmons) gets more and more frustrated with him, can his candidacy survive and will his (now very much embarrassed) wife stick by him?

Hugh Jackman is perfectly cast here; very believable as the self-centred, self-righteous and stubborn politician. But this central performance is surrounded by a strong team of supporting players. Vera Farmiga is superb as the wounded wife. Sara Paxton is heartbreaking as the intelligent college girl unfairly portrayed as a "slapper" by the media. The scenes between her and Hart-staffer Irene (Molly Ephraim), trying desperately to support her as best she can, are very nicely done. J.K Simmons as campaign manager Bill Dixon is as reliable as ever. And Alfred Molina turns up as the latest film incarnation of The Post's Ben Bradlee - surely one of the most oft portrayed real-life journalists in film history.

One of my biggest dissatisfactions with the film is with the sound mixing. Was this a deliberate act by director Jason Reitman, to reflect the chaotic nature of political campaigning? Whether it was deliberate or not, much of the film's dialogue - particularly in the first 30 minutes of the film - is drowned out by background noise. Sometimes I just longed for subtitles!

The screenplay, by Matt Bai (from his source book), Jay Carson (a Clinton staffer) and director Jason Reitman might align with the story, but the big problem is that the story is just a little bit dull, particularly by today's levels of scandal. This suffers the same fate as "House of Cards" (even before the Kevin Spacey allegations) in that the shocking realities of the Trump-era have progressively neutered the shock-factor of the fiction: to the point where it starts to become boring. Here, only once or twice does the screenplay hit a winning beat: for me, it was the scenes between Donna Rice and Irene Kelly and the dramatic press conference towards the end of the film. The rest of the time, the screenplay was perfectly serviceable but nothing spectacular.

A core tenet of the film is Hart's view that politics should be about the policies and not about the personality. Looking at the subject nowadays, it's clearly a ridiculously idealistic viewpoint. Of course it matters. Politicians need to be trusted by their constituents (yeah, like that's the case in the UK and the US at the moment!) and whether or not they slap their wives around or sleep with farm animals is clearly a material factor in that relationship. But this was clearly not as much the case in the 70's as it is today, and the suggestion is that the Hart case was a turning point and a wake-up call to politicians around the world. (An interesting article by the Washington Post itself points out that this is also a simplistic view: that Hart should have been well aware of the dangerous game he was playing.)

Do you think that powerful politicos are driven to infidelity because they are powerful? Or that it is a characteristic of men who have the charisma to become political leaders in the first place? Such was the discussion my wife and I had in the car home after this film. Nature or political nurture? I'm still not sure. It's worth pointing out that to this day both Hart and Rice (interestingly, an alleged ex-girlfriend of Eagles front-man Don Henley) stick to their story that they never had sex.

The film's perfectly watchable, has great acting, but is a little bit of a non-event. The end titles came and I thought "OK, that's that then".... nothing more. If you're a fan of this style of historical political film then you probably won't be disappointed by it; if not, probably best to wait and catch this on the TV.

(For the full graphical review please check out One Mann's Movies on the web or Facebook. Thanks).
15 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Unfortunately not a front runner
KarenAM14 October 2018
The movie tells a story of a disgraced presidential candidate Gary Hart, who was the front runner in 1988 but dropped out due to sexual misconduct. Sounds familiar? Yes. But let's move on. The main moral of the story is whether private aberration should effect political professionalism. Will one perform efficiently as a political figure if they misbehave in private life? Hugh Jackman as Gary Hart, is well enough, but didn't have much screen time for a main character to let us pick his head and get to know him as a politician, as a husband and father. Supporting cast, including astonishing Vera Farmiga and J.J. Simmons, did better work with equal screen time but less lines. The film never quite clarifies its own attitude toward Hart, as well as doesn't let us enough background to make solid conclusions ourselves. The Front Runner is definitely not a front runner this season
18 out of 28 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
2/10
A lot of "who cares?"
M_Exchange21 November 2018
I'm going to rate it 2 instead of 1 star just because I laughed hard at Bill Burr and Johnny Carson's archival bits. But I didn't really attend the screening just to watch the comedic stylings of Burr and the late Johnny Carson.

This movie seemed like it would have been far more relevant if it was released during the '90s, when the term "infotainment" was coined. As it is now, it's old hat. I was only fairly familiar with the '88 Hart scandal, yet I learned almost nothing about it, and the movie never really confronts anything that it's exploring-- issues that we've seen and experienced in the American political landscape for decades. We have known for a long time that the lines of politics and news and entertainment have blurred severely. This movie plods along well-trodden ground, and it doesn't produce a truffle.

I think that J.K. Simmons' character phrased it best in this film when he flatly stated, "I don't give a f___." Skip it.
18 out of 30 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
5/10
Reasonably well-made but barely scratches the thematic surface
Bertaut29 January 2019
Based on the non-fiction book All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid (2014) by Matt Bai, written for the screen by Bai, Jason Reitman, and Jay Carson (Hillary Clinton's former press secretary), and directed by Reitman, The Front Runner tells the story of Colorado senator Gary Hart's doomed 1988 presidential campaign. The most likely candidate to win the Democratic nomination, Hart's reputation was shattered when a Miami Herald story accused him of an extramarital affair, and only three weeks into his campaign, he withdrew from the race. The film presents the events of those weeks as a seismic turning-point; when political journalism and tabloid sensationalism irrevocably fused, when private scandal became just as important to the American public as political acumen, perhaps even moreso. Aspiring to the kind of multi-character canvas of Robert Altman or early Paul Thomas Anderson, The Front Runner spreads itself far too thin, trying to take on the perspective of a plethora of characters, yet telling us very little about any of them, least of all Hart himself. And in the end, it fails to work as either a darkly satirical examination of the Hart scandal, or as a socio-political critique of the current constitutional environment in the US.

The film examines how the implosion of Hart's (Hugh Jackman) campaign is dealt with by a number of people, including his wife, Oletha "Lee" Hart (Vera Farmiga), who had asked only that he never embarrass her in public; his campaign manager, Bill Dixon (J.K. Simmons), who tried to warn Hart that the private and the public had become one; Washington Post editor Benjamin C. Bradlee (Alfred Molina), who was reluctant to wade into what he saw as tabloid territory; Hart's alleged mistress, Donna Rice (Sara Paxton), who was portrayed in the media as a bimbo homewrecker; fictional Washington Post reporter A.J. Parker (Mamoudou Athie), who covers the story with no small amount of distaste; fictional campaign scheduler Irene Kelly (Molly Ephraim), who promises Rice that she will keep her name out of the media; Miami Herald reporter Tom Fiedler (Steve Zissis), who initially broke the story of Hart's possible infidelity; Washington Post reporter Ann Devroy (Ari Graynor), who believes strength of character is just as important in a presidential candidate as policy; fictional Miami Herald publisher Bob Martindale (Kevin Pollak), who stands by the journalistic integrity of his paper; and Hart's daughter, Andrea (Kaitlyn Dever), who came out as a lesbian just prior to the scandal.

Although the film doesn't absolve Hart of being a terrible husband, it does present him as an inherently decent man trying to protect his privacy, and that of his family, against a predatory and newly mercenary media. Depicting it as more concerned with prurience than rhetoric, the film takes a dim view of the Fourth Estate (its antecedents are films such as Ace in the Hole (1951), Absence of Malice (1981), and Mad City (1997) rather than, say, The Insider (1999) or Spotlight (2015)). Following the line of the book, Reitman posits that the Miami Herald and Fiedler (who is, along with Martindale, the de facto villain) did Hart himself, the American people, and political discourse in general a grave disservice insofar as tabloid reporting of this nature has gone on to undercut serious political debate, and has thus subverted the importance of the political process, cheapening it by way of cynicism, sensationalism, and sleaze.

Although ostensibly about the events of 1987, much like BlacKkKlansman (2018), The Front Runner has one eye on the here and now, musing as to why a man who was merely accused of having an affair (an accusation that was never proved) had his political career destroyed, and yet a man accused of sexual misconduct on multiple occasions, a man who is on tape bragging about how he can sexually assault women with impunity, could be elected to the highest office in the land. The answer suggested by the film is that, since Hart, scandal has become just another aspect of politics, and that which destroyed Hart in 1987 barely made a dent on Bill Clinton in 1998 or Donald Trump in 2016. In this sense, lines such as Devroy's "anyone running for president must be held to a higher standard" are as much about Trump as they are Hart.

Essentially, the film argues that the country now has a president like Trump precisely because of what happened to Hart, and in this sense, perhaps its most salient theme is that the Hart scandal represents the point at which politics became a form of entertainment, opening the floodgates to the tabloids, whilst Hart himself became a martyr to this new style of political coverage. The film drives this message home by having Bradlee tell a story about Lyndon Johnson, who, upon becoming president in 1963 told the media, "you're going to see a lot of women coming and going, and I expect you to show me the same discretion you showed Jack." The media ignored the infidelities of Johnson and John F. Kennedy (and Franklin D. Roosevelt), reporting only on their political activities, and Hart sees no reason why things should be any different for him. In this sense, his blindness is his hamartia, ignoring Dixon when he tells him, "it's not '72 anymore Gary. It's not even '82". The landscape had changed, and Hart's inability to change with it cost him everything.

However, despite the fact that all of that should make for fascinating drama, The Front Runner doesn't really work. The most egregious problem is the depiction of Hart himself. For starters, it's questionable, at best, to portray him as the victim of an increasingly combative media, glossing over the fact that he himself was the architect of his ruination, sabotaging his own political career and humiliating his wife all because of his libido. In this post-#MeToo era, suggesting that a powerful man was wronged when he was exposed cheating is more than a little naïve. Indeed, the film seems to yearn for simpler times, when potentially great men could walk the path to positions of power, unimpeded by intelligent women speaking out against them, or diligent reporters uncovering their less wholesome activities, when infidelity remained hidden from the public. The Front Runner is not a story about a man who learns that private ethical lapses have become intertwined with public policymaking. Instead, it's about a man who was unfairly destroyed by a pernicious press for doing exactly the same thing that his predecessors had gotten away with for decades. And that's a much less interesting film.

Additionally, due to a poor script which offers Jackman little in the way of an arc, Hart barely registers as a real person, with little sense of interiority or psychological verisimilitude. Instead, he comes across as a blank slate, a cypher onto which the audience can project its own interpretation. Related to this, Reitman tells us that Hart was an outstanding candidate, offering things that others did not, and had it not been for the insidious media, he would have gone on to become a sensational president. However, the film never gets into the specifics of how exactly he was so different, what he offered that was so unique, or why he would have been such a good POTUS. Reitman asks the audience to take Hart's potential for transformative greatness on trust, never attempting to illustrate any aspect of that potential, a failing which significantly undermines his condemnation of the media.

Elsewhere, the film tries to touch on virtually every aspect of the scandal - reporter-editor meetings discussing the moral responsibility of the press; campaign staff trying to fight back against tabloidization; gumshoe reporters hiding in bushes and stalking back alleys; the strain on Hart's marriage; the effects on Donna Rice. Ultimately, it casts its net far too wide, briefly covering topics that are crying out for a more thorough engagement. For example, at one point, Rice says to Kelly, "he's a man with power and opportunity, and that takes responsibility." That's a massive statement with a lot of thematic leg-work already built in, and serious potential for probing drama, but the film fails to do anything with it, moving on to cover something else. Indeed, Sara Paxton, despite given only two scenes of note, gives a superb performance, finding in Rice a decency and intelligence, playing her as someone who wants to keep her name out of the press because she doesn't want to embarrass her family. She's an infinitely more interesting figure than Hart himself, and the film would have benefitted immeasurably from more of her.

The Front Runner is aesthetically fairly solid; well-directed, well-shot, well-edited. However, given how thematically relevant the Hart story is to the contemporary political climate in the US, especially the increasingly antagonistic relationship between the White House and the media, the script feels bland and overly simplistic. The core of the story is the question of whether or not the press was right to report on Hart's infidelity. Did the public need to know? Did it have any bearing on his ability to lead? The film answers all three questions with a resounding "no". However, the cumulative effect is of a scandal skimmed rather than explored, of characters glanced at rather than developed, of controversies summated rather than depicted. There are some positives - Farmiga and Paxton are both excellent, for example - but all in all, this is a missed opportunity, lacking both socio-political insight and satirical flair.
12 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Interesting, but too politically preachy
DylanMcChillin8 November 2018
The movie was interesting enough, however, if the main character was a conservative, this movie would have taken a completely opposite tone. But since he is a liberal, the director paints his immoral lifestyle into a more sympathetic tone. Hollywood needs to stay out of politics. They are ruining the reasons people want to see movies.
34 out of 67 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
A Smart Film
gpswenson2 November 2018
In an age where politics is so fiercely polarized it was refreshing to see a film about politics that opens windows and allows the viewer to consider a number of possible conclusions. I'm glad Reitman didn't try to preach with this film or paint anyone as a villain. Even the opinions I had already settled into over the years about Hart's relationship with Rice and the role of the press were softened and reconsidered after seeing this. I like that The Front Runner made me look at this time in history from the eyes of so many people I hadn't originally considered were affected by this event. Reitman manages to keep the mood suspenseful without pushing us into hoping for any particular outcome and I think that's pretty artful. This is a film I could enjoy more than once and that I might draw different conclusions from each time I saw it depending on which character spoke to me the most that day. There's a lot going on and all of it is interesting.
14 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
This Turkey Should Never Have Made It To New Year
martimusross7 January 2019
A really dreary movie to be missed at all costs. Even if I had heard of Gary Hart, minor politician, I really would not have given a tinkers-toss to revisit his miserable life.

The movie tried to establish that the public perception of morality towards its public figures changed sometime in the 80's and that accountability for their behaviour in their private lives became news worthy. The movie implies this is a bad thing if this aspect of personal privacy deters descent candidates from applying for high office. I find this a totally morally ambiguous stance and leaves a nasty taste in the viewers mouth.

In reality, I would suggest, people either abuse power when they had obtained power, or they were perhaps better at being discreet. I won't state the obvious that the technology was perhaps not invented either.

Gary Hart had a series of tawdry affairs and was a serial adulterer, it is self-evident that this would discount him from achieving high office.

Other elements that irritated, the nasty wigs, every journalist had a smart mouth, cynicism was rife, wooden acting poor script, can you tell I just wanted to die.
11 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
5/10
Just mediocre at best
moveebuff195316 September 2018
Just saw The Front Runner at TIFF tonight. Only went to see it because Hugh Jackman & Vera Farmega are two of my favourite actors (I'm Ukrainian background) I was cautiously hopeful that there would be something intriguing to this story that I was already familiar with. Slow to start, I kept waiting for that aha moment but it never really appeared. The Front Runner basically shows the hard working back room people who lead a campaign for whom they are willing to sacrifice their time & energy for a person they strongly believe in. I don't know why Hugh Jackman was cast as the lead as he is Australian so we know he's faking his American accent and I don't know why he agreed to the role. Vera Farmiga played the role well but there wasn't much to it. I doubt if this will even open in theatres. It will probably go straight to rental.
22 out of 50 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
The rise and fall of a powerful man, blended with politics and media.
blanbrn22 November 2018
Remember growing up the scandal of one U.S. Senator Gary Hart and how his affair and love making drama with a hot and sexy Donna Rice would ruin and end his presidential ambitions. As for the late 1980's this kind of stuff was major news in the media and political world as then the society was just starting to carve up tabloid like gossip. And with this work called "The Front Runner'" it's a showcase of how scandal and media would destroy a man's political life. The film blends well with how media and politics rub with one another as it's front page sensation. Also the movie is well supported with themes of trust, ethics, accountability, guilt, and morality.

After 1984 when U.S. senator Gary Hart(Hugh Jackman) had a second place finish in the democratic primary he returns four years later for the 1988 run as the top favored donkey to win the nomination. As he's a different kind a Colorado western guy who talks technology, jobs, and peace all while appealing to the youth vote. At the time Hart feels comfortable with the press, though soon he sees just what a media sideshow it has become as questions and past statements are personal and revealing.

When the press and media does detective like spy work on Hart from airports to townhouses and campaign stops it's clear that life and privacy is a no win for Gary. Overall very very good film that takes you back to the times of the late 80's just to see how powerful that the press and media can be when it reveals secrets of moral and ethic choices as it's clear it changes the game for the powerful as Gary Hart would discover and the nation would see privacy and actions are no longer a private right and when revealed moral and emotional guilt changes things forever as in 1988 this scandal was just the start for a scandal hungry media to play wolf on politics, and powerful candidates who wanted more.
9 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Compelling political drama
Spanner-222 November 2018
Compelling film with Hugh Jackman pulling off a credible version of Gary Hart in this look at the fatal three weeks of his 1988 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. Vera Farmiga is also good as his wife and J.K. Simmons plays his campaign manager. The film is split between covering his campaign and the reporters from the Washington Post and the Miami Herald who debated among themselves if the questions of Hart's alleged womanizing were important enough to pursue. It's a look back to a time when a story like this would sink a campaign and it did... The film has some unexpectedly strong moments when it focuses briefly on the idealistic young campaign workers and also when during a scene with Donna Rice and a young female staffer thats assigned to "manage" her... The film, after a brief prologue in 1984, spends all the time in those three weeks and it's very good for the most part.. A scene among Post staffers that tries to tie this into the #Metoo movement feels tacked on and unrealistic as having occurred in 1987 and the ending could have been a bit stronger but it's an effective film on its own merits.
8 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Complete revisionism, it was never about morality, it was about Hart's judgment and arrogance
VoyagerMN198610 February 2019
This film is stunningly bad and really purveys a completely false narrative when it comes to Hart. Making his problem seem to be about what it was not. Hart's problem was in fact stunningly bad judgement which was highly relevant to his qualification as president candidate.

Lets set the record straight. Hart was "front runner" really only before the primaries, only during the exploratory phase when the party wanted to draft Mario Coumo and Hart was virtually unknown except for his airbrushed photo. Hart only polled well against OLD Democrats. Physically old and old idea ones like Mondale and Mario Coumo. When they were out, Hart actually became the "old guy." He was not going to beat Dukakis in primary votes or in primary delegates even before he destroyed his own candidacy. The lost prince narrative is completely bogus.

Even if he won the primary, Hart was also never going to be president. The 1988 electoral vote spread was Electoral vote 426 to 111. George Bush won a higher margin of electoral votes than all but five other elections in US . In fact no US election since the 1998 George Bush landslide has the winner won by as much popular or electoral votes as Bush did in 1988. Clinton never got that proportion of popular or electoral votes, Bush's son did not, Obama did not, Trump did not. Go to Wikipedia and put in 1988 presidential elections and look at the map of electoral votes.

The ONLY thing actually interesting, dramatic or meaningful about Hart as a US poltical figure was him having affairs while married, denying it while under the deep scrutiny of national electoral politics. This was not a private citizen, or even solely a legislator this was a guy running for president who was carrying on affairs while doing so. He showed profoundly bad judgement, an amazing amount of arrogance and to top it off betrayed everyone who supported him. He was not "set up."

As far as the press, the press mostly covered for him, never reporting a string of lies and rumors until he was caught red handed --twice.

Lastly the film scene with the discussion in the Washington Post newsroom about covering "rumor" is bogus. At that point the Post KNEW hart was an inveterate liar and dishonest to his core lying continually about many aspects of his own life and bogus myths he had created.. He had even been lying about his AGE constantly claiming to be 1 to 4 years than he actually was routinely filling out forms with different ages and birthdates. What was going on at the Post was the junior editors and reporters were all Democrats and in love with Hart.

The films conceit that that Harts problem was a tabloid phenomena followed by the mainstream press getting down in the mud is just an inversion. This problem was all Harts. By the way his own campaign staff blamed Hart and Hart alone -- and still do.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
5/10
a blip in history
ferguson-616 November 2018
Greetings again from the darkness. Jason Reitman has proven himself to be an outstanding filmmaker who delivers entertaining stories with insightful commentary often accompanied by biting humor. His excellent films include: THANK YOU FOR SMOKING, JUNO, UP IN THE AIR, and one of this year's most underappreciated films, TULLY. His latest is based on the book "All the Truth is Out" by Matt Bai (who also co-wrote the screenplay with Reitman and "House of Cards" Producer Jay Carson), and it tells the story of Colorado Senator Gary Hart and his derailed 1988 campaign for President.

The film begins in 1984 when an idealistic Hart loses the Democrat party nomination to Walter Mondale, who of course, went on to lose the national election to Ronald Reagan. It then picks up as the 1988 campaign is underway and Hart is the party frontrunner, and some say the candidate most likely to win the Presidency. Hugh Jackson plays Hart and is unfortunately burdened with an ill-fitting and distracting wig meant to emulate the lush locks sported by the youthful looking Senator. Vera Famiga plays his wife Lee, and Kaitlyn Dever plays their daughter Andrea. Casting two such fine actresses matters because of what happened during the campaign.

Senator Hart was the favored candidate of the young and the idealistic forces, though the details of his platform were never communicated clearly. Mostly, he was presented as the energetic candidate of hope versus the stodgy Republican Party that had delivered Ronald Regan for 8 years and was now looking to George Herbert Walker Bush. Everything changed for Hart when rumors of marital infidelity, and possibly even an open marriage, began to circulate. When the media asked him, he was defiant ... at times snapping in anger that his personal life was no one's business.

We are taken inside the campaign via many familiar faces, including campaign manager Bill Dixon played by JK Simmons, and a terrific turn by Molly Ephraim as staffer Irene Kelly. We are invited on board the aptly named party yacht "Monkey Business" when Hart first meets Donna Rice (Sara Paxton), setting off what could considered be the birth of political gossip-columns. The Herald and Washington Post are key players here, as are editor Ben Bradlee (Alfred Molina) and iconic journalist Bob Woodward. Apparently this is supposed to show us how politics and the media coverage of politics changed with Gary Hart.

Where the movie lets us down is in not providing any explanation to why Hart was the front runner, whether the U.S. or even the democratic party missed out on a great (or even competent) President, and how in the world Hart was so clueless as to why citizens might have an interest in his personal life activities that included sleeping with a woman (or women) that weren't his wife. By the way, the reason for the last one is character ... and we've since learned it's not as important as what we might have once thought. These are all key issues as to why this is even a story, and whether or not it's interesting enough to re-tell.

Instead of details, we are bombarded with overlapping dialogue and frenetic editing designed to generate some buzz and energy. The reality is that Gary Hart was really not that interesting, and in fact, by denying the importance of character, he thumbed his nose at his supporters. This blip on American history is simply not enough to justify a 2 hour a movie, and Mr. Jackman never seems able to capture the essence of Hart (whatever that essence might have been). There is obvious relevance to how today's press treats personal stories, but a bland candidate makes for a bland movie.
6 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Running To The Front Of Classroom Discussion
rgkarim22 November 2018
The world of politics was once a thing with gusto, a means to which to represent the people and bring change that benefitted the many. Now it seems that the arena of governmental officials has become a new level of entertainment, especially given the portrayal of the players in a number of media designs. Tonight though, the film I review is focusing on this playing field, portraying that fine line between media circus and political justice. Robbie K here with another review, this time taking a look at the latest biography/drama called;

Movie: The Front Runner (2018)

Director: Jason Reitman Writers: Matt Bai, Jay Carson Stars: Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, J.K. Simmons

LIKES:

The Acting: The movie doesn't have many special effects to battle for your attention. Instead it relies heavily on the actors to bring their talents to full speed in hopes of bringing the tale to life. Jackman leads the way with his portrayal of a council man, dropping his Australian accent for American drawl filled speeches. A balance of many emotions, he claims a victory in the polls of talent from this reviewer. Simmons as well reprises his Whiplash majestic talents to bring a counter balance to Jackman's antics. In addition Farmiga brings her talents to the screen with piano playing, voices of reason, and a nice break from the political game.

The Use Of All Characters: This film may be about Jackman's character Gary Hart, but it dives into much deeper facets of the political running for president. In doing so, all parties have a decent amount of screen time and involvement in the film, helping to add their approaches, morals, and thoughts to the collective pot of political prowess. Seeing these angles adds more dynamic nature to the film, helping to piece together the entire story at hand. And having all these characters throughout the story, should give you someone to tune your attention, should senator Hart not be the one you wish to focus on.

The Multiple Angles: Hitting each of the perspectives of this movie brings with it a more engaging film. Hart's journey for presidency is certainly very deep, and the fact it happened over three weeks, is a bit mind blowing given how much things cascaded out of control. Still, in this day and age of political fire, the supposed act may turn you off to the main storyline. So it is nice to have so many parties included in this film, each one's philosophy made apparent to show the heated war that occurs between the media and the political group. It was nice to see this approach, seeing as most political dramas get a little too embossed in the main character's agony and mistakes. The Topics Of Discussion: This movie is one designed to stimulate discussion among the group. Did the media have the right to take the stance they did? Was his actions enough to cause such an uproar? What about the individual reporters recruited in this chase? These are just some of the questions to run through the film as the events transpire. As such, the Front Runner will certainly be a valuable tool for an ethics class/lesson, helping future generations weigh the decisions in their quest for the truth. Perhaps this is the ideal place to display this piece of work.

The Speeches: Say what you want about the movie, but it gets points for the adapted script and dialogue that brings with it. The Front Runner is all about inspiring a lot of ideas and that comes through the motivational force of the writing. What is the real words and what was the magic, but the Front Runner has those moments that give you goosebumps. The turn of phrase and emotional impact of those moments will hopefully drive the point to you like it did to me. Very nice writing guys.

DISLIKES:

Slow Pace: Don't be expecting a fast-paced movie here my friends. Gary Hart's journey is very meticulous in detail, and though they skip days at a time, they do everything they can to cram the nearly 2 hour run time with all the details. If you love the drama of a modern ABC show, you'll be fine in this film, but for others like me needing a little more tension, well this won't be the film for you. Speaking of which...

No tension: Political dramas are supposed to have looming threats, with close calls and a ravenous hunger for the truth to be revealed, or at least some looming mystery. Sadly, the movie leaves these out, going for more realism and moral discussion than entertaining bouts of political angst. This is fine, except that is takes away from the theater visiting quality in this reviewer's eyes. So don't anticipate the House Of Cards spin my friends, they didn't go this route.

Some Stories Not Full Circle: A lot of plot points means a lot of threads to tie up, and this movie did a decent job of accomplishing this goal. But not all stories got the nice finish I think they deserved, primarily involving the woman he held interest in and the campaign manager. With such strong characters and the information starting to be gathered, why would they not finish in the strong manner the main tale ended? Not entirely sure myself, but given this isn't a mini-series on television, well it's no surprise.

What Is The Truth?: These movies are always generating the question of how much is truth and how much is the movie magic. Front Runner seems to be on the realistic side, but how much was left out or blurred is something to always question in these films. Depending on your political alignments, your morals on the topics of political hot topics, and other things at hand. Ergo, the movie is still up in the air of the extent of what happened. Guess we have the internet to find out.

The Verdict:

The Front Runner may not be the political drama of the year, but it certainly brings a lot of unique perspectives on the outcomes. I myself certainly enjoyed the multiple outlooks on the event, and the topics it spurred, while of course relishing the acting and dialogue written. Yet, a little more movie magic in terms of suspense alongside some clarification of stories could have gone far for me. Nevertheless, this would have been best left to the history channel or mini-series, leaving this reserved for classroom discussions or at least in your home apartment.

My scores are:

Biography Drama: 7.0 Movie Overall: 6.0
8 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Political biopic starts out strong, then loses steam big time
PotassiumMan17 November 2018
The story of Colorado Senator Gary Hart, the Democratic candidate for President in the 1988 primaries is depicted in this Jason Reitman film. At first, it has the heady energy and visceral pace you would expect from a film about what turned out to be a fateful political campaign that changed the dynamics of elections in how Americans viewed their politicians' private lives.

The performances are the main selling point here. Hugh Jackman is crisp as the popular U.S. senator who seemed destined to win the Democratic nomination. J.K. Simmons is solid as his dedicated but very practical campaign manager. And Vera Farmiga is exceptional as Hart's devoted wife who knows more than the public at first.

Unfortunately, Reitman's approach is ultimately too disengaged for this to achieve any lasting impact. The early phase of the campaign is brought to life. Soon, the film brings us to the ugliness of the missteps that left the Hart campaign in ruins. After that, it just becomes very, very... quiet.

Almost as if the film does not know what to say about investigative journalism or the shift in the public's attitude toward the personal lives of candidates for elective office, the energy and drama of the film is swiftly sucked out. All that's left is just a dirge on the public life of a supposedly great man who could have been President. Given the tremendous talent involved in this film, I mark this down as a disappointment, although it is a good sign that Reitman is once again aiming high. Not recommended.
5 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Forgotten Film of 2018 !
Lewis_Heather78716 February 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Unfortunately some films just get lost throughout the year and especially around "Oscar Season", now and then a few forgotten gems slip through. This film is definitely one of them!

This type of film is definitely up my alley so I was optimistic about how good the film could be considering the complete disappearance of any marketing or any award consideration. I only say this because I seem to remember reading somewhere that Sony pushed this film for the "award season" but to no avail.

Firstly the story, which I had never heard of due to a couple of reasons. Erm......this took place a little before my time and not in the country I live in, so its understandable........i think. However wow is this story juicy or what! Obviously has its sort of parallels to today and especially in the current climate in American politics. The film brings up some really interesting themes about people who run for the presidency and about their personal lives, are they entitled to a personal life or do we have to know everything about them. Also the boundaries of journalism, where is the line in the sand drawn? Did the journalists go to far or were they doing the job their payed to do??

Directing from Jason Reitman is top class, which is to be expected he has put out some decent stuff in the past. He has really got the feel right and there is a quickness to the film that I think is driven from the central character. As soon as the film starts you are immediately transported back to the late 80's.........erm I don't know how I would know because I want alive........but you know what I mean.

The cast all round is fantastic but it obviously starts with Hugh Jackman who is really good in the role of Gary Hart, one his best for a while. You could really see why Hart was such a charismatic person and how he became so popular, also how he "was" going to get the Democratic Party nomination. Praise must go to others in the cast as well Vera Farmiga, JK Simmons, Alfred Molina, Mamoudou Athie and Molly Ephraim all of them just fit so well into the film. Shoutout Bill Burr!

I must also say that I loved the parts within the Miami Herald and The Washington Post. Especially the scenes within "The Post" just has that essence of "All the Presidents Men" about it which is never a bad thing, Alfred Molina is a perfect casting.

Overall its 80% out of 100 or 8 out of 10 I really enjoyed this film and think its very good. However I must say that why has this film gone relatively unnoticed and even the reviews I have read, haven't been flattering to say the least. Why has this film got such a low score?? Im really confused??? Maybe my expectations weren't has high as everyone else's??? Or is this film not as factually accurate as it could have been??? I am bewildered, please watch it hopefully you'll be as surprised as I was!
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
4/10
A Difficult Project, Poorly Executed
randolphpat200014 February 2019
Warning: Spoilers
I was really looking forward to watching this in the theatre, but it closed almost right away. I chalked it up to an unpopular genre.

After all, the wonderful HBO series K-Street, tackled similar themes and was cancelled after just as season, leaving one of the worst cases of an unresolved plot twist.

In today's society, this story needed a serious treatment, the kind that Altman, while he would have taken this project in a second, could not provide. Sydney Lumet could have provided a perfect setting and timing and come in under budget, but he may have come in a little flat.

But the problem we have here is that there is a reigning master of this genre. In point of fact, while they are a team, there are two.

George Cloney and Steven Soderbergh have been talking this kind of thing with aplomb for about 20 years now. How anyone could tell the Gary Hart story and leave them out of it is a sad mystery to me.

So for those of us that are fans of this genre and have seen everything from Bob Roberts to Citizen Cane, cannot, nor should we sit idly by and watch this story, which was given almost as bad a treatment as Bonfire of the Vanities, silently.

DiPalma survived it, but I don't think Jason Reitman will. There were just too many structural, basic problems with this film. Starting with Hugh Jackman who, other than being "very good looking", was a criminally bad casting choice.

Not that he's a bad actor at all. He is a wonderful talent who I hope never enters the political genre again, or I'll take the aforementioned back.

As is the talented Vera Farminga, who seemed to have the same regard for Jackman she might have for say a tomato, or a house plant.

The cavernous cast of character actors would have needed a Robert Altman just to coordinate them, or a And the Band Played On length.

God bless JK Simmons, who could make a Tide commercial Oscar worthy. Predictably great, flawless performance. He brought depth to a character the writers did everything they could to flatten out.

Maybe, just maybe this piece could have survived as the one thing they did do right was keep the audience view at a fairly tertiary level. This did manage to create some voyeuristic connection to the material, until..... until well.... the "me too" sequence.

The only real chance the audience had to form a close relationship with a character was driven by Prom Queen, Horror Film Princess, turned serious method actor Sarah Paxton. Oh Lord, was she awful!

She came in the story appearing as a mousy political groupie and left as a victimized mousy political groupie. She even had the amazing Toby Huss to prop her up, and nothing, she gave the story nothing.

The 15 or so minutes the story zoomed in on this actor did make the film drop to Bonfire of the Vanities territory. Even at her most coked up, Melanie Griffith would have done a better job.

Had this character received the same viewing as the reporters and editors and campaign staff characters, the movie still would have been bad thanks to the two leads, but at least it could pass as a valiant attempt.

I wish had more good things to say about a movie I was truly looking for a reason to like, but it was just bad. Full stop.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
5/10
Like reading only the lead paragraph in a newspaper
dfranzen7013 February 2019
This based-on-a-true-story drama seemed a little unfocused and unsure of itself. If one doesn't know the story of Gary Hart's downfall in 1988, he or she might leave this film not knowing much more than the basics. The movie could have taken the journalist angle, like that taken in All the President's Men - the digging, the investigating, the nuts-and-bolts of being a reporter. Or it could have focused on Hart as a good guy who made a bad decision. Or it could have looked a little more closely at the dynamic between him and his wife, or between him and his tireless staff. It tried to do all of these things but failed to accomplish any. Hugh Jackman is really terrific and has a strong supporting cast, but the character simply isn't explored sufficiently for the audience to really care or become invested in him. The result is that an interesting (for the time) scandal feels superficially treated. One wonders how strong the film would have been had it been able to contrast the Donna Rice scandal with any sex scandal of the past 10 years or so and explain why this one in particular is still relevant today.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
4/10
faaar too noisy
todoficina18 February 2019
I have no idea what the 'sound departments' of the film industry today think is more important..............the words that carry the film or the added sound track that conveys mood? in this movie the sounds drowned out the words.

i like Jackman and all other actors also gave a good performance. i like political intrigue but i nearly switched it off because a drumbeat drowned out everything for the FIRST 24 MINUTES!!

it is definitely overlong, nearly 2 hours, but honest in the way it portrayed the press........it is one of those films i will not watch again.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Good Acting, But...
mandagrammy17 February 2019
Although you can't fault the top notch performances in this film, it felt devoid of something. I felt as if they were only skimming over the story rather than giving us a truly in depth look into this interesting tale of success and failure. It does, however, feel very timely for what is very current today. I enjoyed the film, but have no need to see it again in future.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
4/10
Holy Boring Batman!
mgitts197717 February 2019
It's been a while since I watched such an interestingly boring movie. I liked how this scandal was part of what changed the dynamic of how the press deals with the personal lives of politicians.... But dear Lord, it was so blah.... I adore Hugh Jackman, and find him to be quite versatile and talented; however, the story needed to show more of the sensationalism that surrounded his character, after the scandal, and the additional ramifications of his choices.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews


Recently Viewed