Frost/Nixon is fascinating glimpse at historical duel
Clearly it’s December as studios are unleashing their Oscar contenders one after another. Clear some room for Ron Howard’s Frost/Nixon. At the very least it should merit a Best Actor nomination for Frank Langella, but also Best Picture and Best Director consideration.
The film is based on the 2007 Peter Morgan play. That performance earned Langella a Tony Award for Best Actor so he’s familiar with this role. It’s set around the historic 1977 television event where disgraced former president Richard Nixon agreed to a series of interviews with TV personality David Frost to discuss the circumstances leading to his resignation following the Watergate scandal.
Frost (Michael Sheen, also reprising his role from the play) is a TV talk show host more in the vein of Regis Philbin than Anderson Cooper. He’s hardly the hard-hitting journalist anyone would expect to be able to get any real dirt from Nixon. But to the surprise of his viewers and Nixon himself, Frost gets more than anyone expected.
Howard shoots the film as a behind the scenes style documentary making for a fascinating experience.
Langella completely drives this film and he’s amazing. It’s the subtle things. Like how he speaks almost as if he’s gargling and carries his shoulders strong. He gives the impression that he still considers himself important and worthy of respect. This despite his less than glorious departure from Washington.
It’s the kind of arrogance one would expect from a man who believes he’s in the right. Nixon’s main focus is preserving his legacy and the good he accomplished in office, but his detractors want him to own up to his mistakes.
Sheen gives a more understated performance, but he’s just as effective. He takes to the role of the preening showman easily.
The film is staged like an epic duel, where Nixon masterfully avoids Frost’s probing questions. Nixon confidently assumes the interviews will repair his image. The film’s final 20 minutes delivers a strong payoff without any showy effects, just powerful performances.
Howard doesn’t seek to redeem or explain away the mistakes Nixon made. Any sympathy you feel for Nixon will only come as a result of Langella drawing you into Nixon at his lowest.
Even if you’re too young to remember these historic events or lived through them, Frost/Nixon is a definite must-see.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Ralph Nelson/Universal Studios