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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: January 26, 2009 @ 10:45 am

    Frost, Nixon and Ron Howard

    Fiona McCann

    Saw this Oscar contender last night, and apart from a fine performance from Langella as a disgraced president (though not necessarily a ringer for Nixon), Frost/Nixon is a serious disappointment. It’s a Ron Howard of a rewrite, all build-up to the all important climax (aided by a fabricated phone call that turns the tables in the clunkiest of manners), where, you know, good triumphs evil and lo! Frost gleans the all important admission of wrongdoing from a former president and the Day. Is. Saved. Phew, didn’t see that one coming. Which shouldn’t matter in a pic like this where you already know the outcome, except it’s played to us in such a way that we’re apparently supposed to be on the edges of our seats. The thing is, the premise of this film is a fascinating one, and interview technique is something in which I have a particular professional interest, yet Frost/Nixon simplifies even that, all encased in a clumsy faux-documentary style that adds nothing but confusion to the whole endeavour. And yes, you get the sense of the humanity of a man who has been historically demonised (though whether you even agree with that notion is a whole nother story), and some interesting glimpses of how the whole process comes together, but it’s not enough to carry what seems at times a facile version of events. As a film about a historical, political figure, Milk far outranks Frost/Nixon. As for Rebecca Hall’s Caroline Cushing – hard to say why she was written in at all, other than as blatant eye candy. Shudder. Skip it, go see Milk instead. (Speaking of which, check out this bizarre, oddly focussed review by Philip French and let’s see if you see what I see). For a very different take on Frost/Nixon, by the way, by our own film critic Michael Dwyer, click here.

    • brian says:

      Harsh, though I agree with the Rebecca Hall comment and Langella’s performance is good enough to justify seeing the film.

      If it was a case of good triumphing over evil than the notion of the media as good was quite successfully undercut by the Frost character’s egotism and his journalistic team’s ruthlessness. In some conceptual netherworld, you can probably justify some of the dramatic inventions aswell, but far be it from me to go on a media witch hunt on the Irish Times website.

    • Deaglán says:

      Sorry to hear that about Frost/Nixon. Will save my shekels for Milk instead. Went to see Slumdog Millionaire and, despite brilliant child acting and other admirable features, it just didn’t live up to the hype. The Oliver Twist story in an Indian setting. Traditional rags to riches yarn. Gives a very negative (though I have no reason to say inaccurate) view of contemporary India. The child-blinding scene is horrific.

    • paulm says:

      Its probably hard to follow any of political films after the likes of All the Presidents Men and Good Night and Good Luck both of which really excelled in showing the drawn out tension of the cat and mouse game between dark political machinations and journalistic zeal.

    • Q says:

      Is it the part where he suggests the movie doesn’t depict the sexual liberation of late 70s San Fran? I thought it did that brilliantly.

    • Q says:

      Or he didn’t award it any stars?

    • Fiona says:

      Brian: Fair enough, Frost did come across as a right eejit betimes (pre unconvincing transformation moment, that is). And truth be told, I don’t usually mind a bit of fictionalising of my history (it is a film, after all) but only when it makes the film better and has a real purpose.

      Deaglan: I agree that Slumdog doesn’t quite live up to the hype, though has great moments.

      Paulm: Ah, two smashing films, I agree. Good Night and Good Luck is an excellent film. Must go watch it again to remind myself how it’s done when it’s done well.

      Q: Yeah, bit of an obscure comment, I know, that reference to the French review, but I found it strangely skewed. What was that bit on how they passed over “the promiscuity that was a characteristic of gay liberation” all about (despite the fact that there was clearly a lot of good times going down in Milk) – and then the strangely artless conclusion. Maybe this review was so nuanced it went over my head (entirely possible) but it seemed to me an opaque and possibly homophobic reading of the whole thing. I concede I may be missing something essential, however – anyone any ideas?

    • A says:

      I saw Frost/Nixon over the weekend and I could not disagree more with the review above.
      It was a thoughtful, balanced portrait of a complex politician. I came away from it with a profound feeling that with the week that was in it (the inaugeration of Obama) that politics seems doomed to repeat its mistakes. Nixon was played beautifully, as was Frost.
      It seems a little childish to refer the the character of Cushing as providing nothing but eye candy. Rather I felt she added a touch of 1970s glamour to what was, after all, as much about FROST’s life as about Nixon-didn’t the reviewer realise that when she wrote the unbalanced review above?

    • Fiona says:

      A: Let’s give Obama at least 100 days before we start assuming he’ll go all Nixonesque on us. As for Cushing, my point was that all she was there for appeared to be eye candy, glamorous or not. We had no sense of who she was, other than that she lived in Monte Carlo, flew first class and had a lot of backless dresses and long legs. If she had been more integrated as a character, or had some telling dialogue with Frost, I could have taken it, but all she really did was fetch hamburgers. I don’t know that her frocks and legs told me much about Frost’s life that I couldn’t have gleaned without them, other than the fact that there was a woman called Caroline Cushing in his life, and that he liked to charm women. Maybe that’s your point.

    • clom says:

      Apropos French’s allusion to promiscuity and 1970′s San Fransisco there’s a more interesting and clear-headed dissection of the sanitisation of gay culture in Milk by Mark Simpson over in the guardian today.


    • jamietronics says:

      honestly, i havn’t seen the film Frost/Nixon, but political movies bore me, unless its Harrison Ford and Airforce1..lol. but i guess, after reading all these, i might actually see the film on DVD..

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