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*** Official FROST/NIXON (2008) Review Thread


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#1 of 5 Michael Reuben

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Posted December 21 2008 - 06:24 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Lenhardt
If nothing else, Michael Sheen and Frank Langella bring their award-winning performances intact from the West End stage play.
Also Broadway, where the play was a big success. Langella won the Tony award for best actor in a play and richly deserved it.

Having enjoyed the play, I had my doubts when I heard that Ron Howard was directing, because his track record is decidedly mixed. But this is one of his best films.

It helps that Howard has a Peter Morgan screenplay to work from. Frost/Nixon was Morgan's first play, and because he's a more experienced screenwriter than he is a playwright, he's able to work out plot elements in cinematic terms that gave him trouble on stage. In particular, the thorny details of Frost's problems raising the money to finance the production of the interviews (and pay the fees Nixon demanded) come through with much more impact in the film, so that you get a more vivid sense of the enormous risk that Frost was taking.

Langella and Sheen are both magnificent, but the film balances them more equally than the play. The play was Langella's show, in part because his portrayal of Nixon is so compelling -- and I say this as someone who was around for both his terms in office and celebrated when he resigned -- and because Langella is one of the last of the old school of actors like Jason Robards and George C. Scott who really understand how to play big personalities on stage. Langella may not look or sound like Nixon, but he is Nixon -- he conveys the man's presence and essence just as I remember it, to the point where I was simultaneously fascinated and repelled. Langella has appropriately scaled down his performance for the camera, and the result is to make the film much more the clash of unlikely opponents that the title conveys. (On stage, even though Frost wins, it was still no contest.)

While Morgan has played freely with the facts surrounding the making of the Frost interviews, the historical facts of the Nixon presidency have been scrupulously respected. For those who weren't around for Watergate but want to get an interesting look at the passions it evoked at the time, this is a great way to do it. The film is hugely entertaining, filled with colorful personalities embodied by a great cast, especially Kevin Bacon as Jack Brennan, Nixon's loyal aide, and Sam Rockwell as James Reston, Jr., the journalist and academic who reluctantly helped Frost prep for the interviews. The scene where Reston first comes face to face with Nixon, after years spent despising him from afar, is one of the more memorable moments in the film (helped along by the always dependable Oliver Platt as Bob Zelnick, another of Frost's journalistic handymen). Rebecca Hall, from Vicky Christina Barcelona, plays Frost's girlfriend at the time; the character is said to be based on Carol Lynley.

The high point of the film is a certain late night phone call that Morgan has imagined but that is so true to the people involved that it feels like it should have happened. When it played in the theater, people literally held their breath. Langella has said in interviews that Howard shot the scene repeatedly in continuous takes until he got it right. It shows.
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#2 of 5 Allen Hirsch

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Posted December 21 2008 - 09:03 AM

I may be biased, b/c this film depicts my exact "coming of age" timeframe, so I was fascinated by this confrontation (I told my 19-year-old son after we watched this, the Watergate/Nixon situation prompted my very first published letter to the editor of my hometown newspaper, when I was only a year older than he is now).

This is my film of the year, thus far. Langella HAS to get an Oscar nom; he is fantastic. Loved everything about this: great script/dialog, solid acting (topped by Langella's Oscar-worthy performance), the intellectual and psychological cat-and-mouse game between Frost & Nixon, the "feel" of the '70s era, the humor and the drama. Well done.

The film's phone conversation (really a monologue by Nixon) towards the end captures everything about Nixon's psyche that made him the paranoid, insecure, small, venal man that he was. Conversely, the first interviews w/ Frost in the film show Nixon at his confident, stemwinding politician's best, especially on foreign relations.

Highly recommended.
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#3 of 5 Robert Crawford

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Posted December 22 2008 - 05:50 AM

This thread is now the Official Review Thread for "Frost/Nixon (2008)". Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread.

Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items will be deleted from this thread without warning!

If you need to discuss those type of issues then I have designated an Official Discussion Thread.



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#4 of 5 Patrick Sun

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Posted January 01 2009 - 12:30 PM

"Frost/Nixon" is the kind of film that could have floundered with less experienced directors, but with Ron Howard's deft directorial touch, it's a film that just builds and builds to a truly effective climax in this "David vs. Goliath" confrontation between entertainer/show host David Frost and then recently resigned Pres. Nixon, and provides enough denouement to satisfy audiences.

The screenplay does a good job of fleshing out Frost's uphill challenge in making this "almost-didn-t happen" interview happen in the first place, and then like a good heavyweight fight, where the participants use words and research to land their blows and punches, the 4-round fight/interview is almost lost from the get-go as Nixon's experience threatens to overwhelm Frost's lack of journalistic grit and serious interviewing credentials.

The supporting cast is uniformily good, but Frank Langella does own the role of Nixon (total Oscar shoo-in for Best Actor nomination), and Michael Sheen pulls his weight as David Frost, providing just enough "devil may care" attitude above the waterline, but furiously paddling underneath the waterline like a duck trying to get somewhere fast but with aplomb. It'd be good to see Sheen rewarded with a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his work in the film as well.

I give it 3.75 stars, or a grade of A-.
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#5 of 5 LTbrilliance

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Posted January 02 2009 - 08:36 AM

I have to agree with Allen, Langella needs to get an Oscar nom for his role, it was the best performance I've seen in a film this year. Granted I haven't seen many of the other top contenders yet.

I think it was a great idea for them to use Langella and Sheen, since they both had performed the play. You could tell that they had performed the story over and over and had really perfected it.

Two thumbs up from me.