Tuesday, May 19, 2009


2008. Rated R, 123 minutes.
Director: Ron Howard. Starring Michael Sheen, Frank Langella, Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall, Toby Jones.

Plot: Former US President Richard Nixon (Langella) grants his first interview since resigning from office to British talk show host David Frost (Sheen).

The Good: This is an actors' movie and the actors deliver. The writing and directing are both superb but without the actors it would disintegrate. After all, the movie largely consists of people sitting around hotel rooms and living rooms talking. It doesn't sound like riveting drama, but it is. Frank Langella is marvelous as Pres. Nixon. He conveys the smugness of a man confident things will turn out in his favor, yet accusing "media people" of possessing that same trait. People who have seen the actual interviews the movie is based on, or really can remember Nixon, might notice that Langella is much more demonstrative that the President. However, that's done for dramatic purposes and Langella (and the script) hit all the right notes to create what essentially is the movie's villain. Speaking of hitting the right notes, Michael Sheen also does so as David Frost. He is simply perfect. Like most great performances, he does his best acting when he's not talking. Through these moments we sense the pressure mounting on him to pull off something amazing or watch his career go down the drain. That same pressure is on the people working with him and the supporting cast does a great job showing this. Finally, the movie gives us a love interest for our hero but doesn't distract us with a love story.

The Bad: It, maybe, could've gotten more out of Pres. Nixon's team. We get plenty of Jack Brennan (Bacon) but the rest of his team of strategists are reduced to wall flowers simply around for reaction shots. Getting more input from them might possibly have raised the tension between the two camps a bit. Also, I know I commended the movie on not giving us a love story but they still could've found something for Caroline Cushing (Rebecca Hall) to do. She's pretty much just a prop in the background for most of the movie. However, if giving her more to do would've changed the direction of the film then I'm fine with it, as is.

The Ugly: The Prez's late night, drunken phone call to our hero.

Recommendation: Fans of political and/or courtroom drams will love this (yes, I know there are no courtroom scenes in this movie). It's the best one of either I've seen in quite some time. It works best if you have a decent working of knowledge of Nixon's presidency. Stay away if you need any of the following to enjoy a movie: gunplay, explosions, fighting, romance or slapstick.

The Opposite View: Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald

What the Internet Says: 8.0/10 on imdb.com (5/19/09), 92% on rottentomatoes.com, 80/100 on metacritic.com

MY SCORE: 9.5/10

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