RON HOWARD SHOWS his stupidity by adapting Peter Morgans stage play Frost/Nixon into a pseudo-TV documentary. Another of the years endless liberal propaganda strategies, it unsubtly displays the sanctimony that has accrued to TV journalismin fact, Howard enshrines it. Frost/Nixon dramatizes the series of 1977 TV interviews that British chat host David Frost did with President Richard Nixon following his resignation after the Watergate scandal. A minor TV eventon the level of Billie Jean King beating Bobby Riggs at tennisHoward confers it lunatic importance. Its meant to give Nixon the trial he never had.This biased stance sanctifies contemporary political snark, but its really just another media suck-up from the director of The Paper and Ed-TV.
Instead of complexity, Frost/Nixon manifests Peter Morgans confusion over celebrity. Screenwriter of 2006s The Queen and The Last King of Scotland, Morgans specialty is sucking up. His interest in powerful peoples personal lives is no more ambivalent than OK magazine or Gawker. He doesnt construct an ethical exchange like Robert Bolts A Man for All Seasons or Robert Redfords Lions for Lambs but arranges a kangaroo court version of a TV exclusive. Shuffling between Frosts financing details and the disgraced President in seclusion, Morgans head spins: Who to flatter? Who to sneer at? Its a contemporary version of the fans mania in Day of the Locust. Morgan gleefully humiliates Frost (They said you achieved great fame without possessing any discernible qualities); slanders Nixon as xenophobic, racist and homophobicthen pretends sympathy.
It takes a nincompoop like Howard to imagine depth in this silliness.When Frost hires left-leaning journalists James Reston and Bob Zelnick as corner men to prepare his questions, the movie shifts into gotcha mode. Restons liberal rage commandeers the movie. He insists, The American people need a conviction, pure and simple! and his disdainthe typical journalists sanctimony that his own interest is the publicsgoes unquestioned.This disastrous turn in political drama steamrolls over the advances made by Robert Altmans Tanner on Tanner cable-TV series where brilliant detachment and moving revelation captured the folly and egotism of politicians and journalists.
As the title suggests, Frost/Nixon prioritizes media over politics, just as political theater has trumped democratic thinkingespecially in the ruthless age where people casually say, I get my news from Jon Stewarts The Daily Show. Conflating the terms performer and journalist produces the Barbara Walters canard.Tossing in the checkbook-journalism controversy or tidbitslike Diane Sawyer working for Nixon merely jumbles insiderness with the crusading-journalist fantasy from All the Presidents Men. Morgan likes gossip while Howard goes for piety, encouraging his actors to make each cardboard character pathetic. Michael Sheens Frost is desperate (Success in America is unlike success anywhere else.The emptiness when its gone and the sickening thought it may never come back!) but with Geraldo Rivera-Charlie Rose deviltry. Frank Langellas Nixon hulks around like Walter Matthau but then that eloquent, stagetrained voice comes outand the result is a sad Gore Vidal! That Frost and Nixons midnight phone-call inspires competition rather than compassion is the films central failure.
Only supporting performances by Kevin Bacon as Nixons loyal aide and mercurial Sam Rockwell as hothead James Reston seem fresh, but even these roles are stacked.
Howard sponsors Restons media-friendly wrath, down to his fatuous assessment: The reductive power of the close-up: Getting for a fleeting moment Richard Nixons face swollen and ravaged by loneliness, self-loathing and defeat. It might have been moving if Reston wasnt gloating. Frost/Nixon revisits the source of modern liberal-media pique like old Confederates still fighting the Civil War. -- Frost/Nixon Directed by Ron Howard Running Time: 122