Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Many would think that director Ron Howard is some sort of weather vane. One day, the wind blows in the good direction, which gives good movies. The other day, a pathetic film like The Da Vinci Code is produced. Other than that, Frost/Nixon is not likely to make us learn anything new about the interviews themselves or former American president Richard Nixon. However, as a historical film, Frost/Nixon's script sure has an obvious maturity that lets History speaks for itself as much as possible. Thus, this gives to Hollywood fascinating and nuanced characters.

In 1977, after Richard Nixon's (Frank Langella) resignation, David Frost (Michael Sheen), a British host of a talk-show, wants to make a four-parts interview with him. For Nixon's team, it's an occasion to set the record straight and have the former president forgiven by the American public opinion for the Watergate Scandal. As for David Frost, he's looking to make a reputation for himself even though people who finance him, John Birt, his executive editor, along with Bob Zelnick (Oliver Platt) and James Reston Jr (Sam Rockwell), his two researchers, have doubts about Frost's capability to lead the interview.

There's no doubt that Frost/Nixon contains some useless supporting characters like Caroline Cushing, who is played by Rebeca Hall. Even though she's a good actress with a terrific accent, her character is not useful in making us explore what David Frost himself skeptically feels about the interviews. As a matter of fact, such a thing is already explored through Frost's conversation with Bob Zelnick ("We're all going to work for Burger King"), James Reston Jr and John Birt. Besides, this goes without saying that Hall's character is more of a beauty ornament in this film.

If we leave this aside, Frost/Nixon is definitely a film that flows well without jerking around. This means that the film brilliantly alters between the most crucial moments of the interviews and those behind the scenes of them. First of all, while we absolutely learn nothing new about Richard Nixon, the film is still worth watching for its exploration of his personality. In fact, for those who haven't seen the original Frost/Nixon interviews (which are available on DVD), it's surprising to see how Nixon tries to come to term with the Watergate. I'll also say that besides looking almost like Nixon, Frank Langella portrays quite well a man who wants to be remembered for other stuff that he did before the Watergate.

Secondly, as a historical film, Frost/Nixon transforms its useful characters into assets during the "talking heads" interviews. As a matter of fact, by not just sticking to the four interviews themselves, the film offers a good external analysis through the supporting characters. By going behind the scenes of the interviews, the film offers us the thoughts of the main and the (useful) supporting characters. In fact, by letting History speaks for itself, the film also tries to concentrate on how the characters live this historical day during and off the four interviews. Needless to say that as a result of this, you get good performance by Sam Rockwell, who plays someone who despise Nixon, and also Kevin Bacon, as Jack Brennan (Nixon's post-presidential chief of staff) who has difficulty to bear the Watergate on his mind.

Finally, Frost/Nixon might not be the best historical drama on the market because of its flaws. However, Frost/Nixon deserved its nomination at the Academy Award for best picture. Not only does the film illustrate the confrontation between Frost and Nixon, but it also tries to bring us behind the scenes of it.

Rating: 4/5

Origin:USA (2008)
Length:122 minutes
Genre:Historical drama
Screenplay:Peter Morgan
Director:Ron Howard
Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Kevin Bacon, Sam Rockwell, Oliver Platt and Rebeca Hall

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