Sunday, January 25, 2009


"Frost/Nixon" is unmistakably a recounting of the interviews between magnetic but down-on-his-luck host David Frost and recently resigned president Richard M. Nixon. I believe this would make a good play, since it mostly surrounds a series of candid talks between the two aforementioned celebrities. It in fact was a play. Peter Morgan, screenwriter of "The Queen," adapts his own stagepiece into a two-hour, overacted, mediocre film that begs to be a spectacle but doesn't really come close. Martin Sheen and Frank Langella reprise their roles of the stage as Frost and Nixon, respectively, and they're alright, but not in any way Oscar-worthy. Langella is a good choice for Nixon, but he's merely okay, and not really worthy of the praise he's being awarded. Neither is Ron Howard, who crafts a real media pic, in which there are numerous shots of characters in front of, inside of, and behind cameras, boatloads of archival footage, and much more typical of the genre. Howard doesn't bring anything new to the table, and his efforts at a revealing Nixon rehash are not very adequate of such a film. He succeeds in making the interviews mildly engaging, but there is no bomb to be dropped that we don't see coming. We are left with a predictable setup, history regardless, and some pretty bad technical work. I'm thinking that it would be good onstage as there are no cameras to cut away from the action repeatedly, like in the movie. The Oscar-nominated film editing is poorly done, and I am convinced the only reason that it got a nomination was because of the genre. But the real problems of the film lie in the background work. Sam Rockwell, usually a source of good acting, turns in a terrible performance as Nixon-bashing James Reston, Jr., who wrote four books proclaiming his hatred of Tricky Dick. Oliver Platt is just as bad as Bob Zelnick. These actors are supplied with terrible bits of writing from Morgan, who usually can pop the right witty dialogue in at the right time. The only reason any of the movie is getting any attention is because the Academy wants to love such a bit of history. The critics are hailing the film, but it really doesn't deserve to be considered along with superior films such as "Milk" and "Slumdog Millionaire." I believe the Academy is guilty of wanting a film to be what it could be so much, that they confuse the product with the possibilities. C

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