Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
John Drew

Frost/Nixon (2008)

Recommended Posts

Ron Howard seems to be taking a page out of the Oliver Stone book with his casting of Frank Langella as Nixon. From the trailer, I'm having a difficult time buying him as Nixon. In some bits, Langella has the voice down, but in others it seems awfully forced.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Link to the thread on Oliver Stone's Nixon (1995).

Baal_T'shuvah wrote:

: Ron Howard seems to be taking a page out of the Oliver Stone book with his casting of Frank Langella as Nixon.

I don't think Howard can take credit for that. If memory serves, Langella has been winning raves for playing Nixon in the stage version of Frost/Nixon, so Howard is simply reproducing onscreen what has worked onstage. (The stage, which is largely about actors and audience sharing an imaginative space, has less requirements regarding "realism" than film, which is inhibited somewhat by its photographic nature and the expectations that audiences bring to that.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I recently viewed the trailer, and I have to agree that, from the trailer, Langella's voice seems very forced. There are bits that seem very natural, but overall it seems quite distant from the real Nixon's voice.

That said, I still have hopes for the film. I believe that it may just be a case of the trailer containing questionable segments and not the film itself. I'm very curious to see whether this film becomes the big award's season contender that so many critics believe it will be. Only time will tell.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw Langella in the role on Broadway, transferred from the West End, and it was one of the most extraordinary stage performances I've seen. (And believe me, I've seen tons.) As Peter suggests, the attempt was never to impersonate Nixon, but rather to embody something of the man's essence, late in his life.

I see that he'll be opposite Michael Sheen, as he was in the stage version. If you're looking for impersonations, I wouldn't say Sheen is any more likely to pass for David Frost than he did for Tony Blair - though I suppose that objection will come up a lot less often, given American audiences far greater familiarity with Nixon. Poor things.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A couple of early reviews from the premiere at Londonfest...

From Variety

Although it all pays off in a potent and revelatory final act rife with insights into the psychology and calculations of power players, the initial stretch is rather dry and prosaic. Perhaps needlessly adopting a cinematic equivalent of the play's direct-to-audience address, Howard "interviews" several of the characters, witness-style, about the events, which only serves to make the film feel somewhat choppy, half like a documentary at first. Approach also imposes an overly predictable editing style on the whole film, one in which the cuts come precisely on the expected beats, when a fleet, syncopated rhythm would have moved the exposition along with more flair. It might even be that the film could have done without the talking heads altogether.

From The Hollywood Reporter

(Playwright and Screenwriter Peter) Morgan -- whose examinations of major figures in public life include Queen Elizabeth, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Idi Amin -- clearly has a thing for power and those who wield it. Here the writer again demonstrates his knack for making real people come to life. If you think that's easy, look how Oliver Stone struggles in "W.," sometimes unsuccessfully, to make well-known people anything more than waxworks. For his part, (Director Ron) Howard continues to be virtually the only American director to achieve such a high degree of professional skill without displaying a trace of a cinematic personality.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The reason this film succeeds is that Ron Howard doesn't try to display traces of cinematic personality. It's a modest picture that efficiently captures two fine actors delivering interesting, nuanced performances. Any talk of Oscar will be an exaggeration of the film's strengths and importance, I think. But I found it thoughtful, engaging, and enjoyable primarily for its two talented leads, and for its way of raising timely questions for a general audience. And I think it will make a good selection for discussion groups.

So I'm happy to say that this is one of those rare Ron Howard films that I can actually recommend... that didn't provoke some kind of allergic reaction.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am VERY curious to know if there is any historical basis for that one phonecall. It felt like a very "stage-play" sort of device, but who knows, maybe the real David Frost has said that something like it actually happened.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I see that he'll be opposite Michael Sheen, as he was in the stage version. If you're looking for impersonations, I wouldn't say Sheen is any more likely to pass for David Frost than he did for Tony Blair

Haven't seen the film yet (sadly I was ill during the London Film Festival) but from the trailer I would say that Sheen is far less like Frost than he is like Blair. David Frost is even more distinctive than Blair in the way he speaks. But Sheen is a fine actor and I suspect it won't worry me after the first few minutes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The reason this film succeeds is that Ron Howard doesn't try to display traces of cinematic personality. It's a modest picture that efficiently captures two fine actors delivering interesting, nuanced performances. Any talk of Oscar will be an exaggeration of the film's strengths and importance, I think.

Agreed. I don't get the Oscar fever -- it's a well acted movie, but I didn't think either main actor was as good as they've been in other films -- but it's consistently interesting. I'm a little doubtful about the attempted political parallels with today's president, and am wondering if that perception is what's driving a lot of the awards talk for this movie. If so, it makes such recognition even less desirable to me, but if the movie snags some awards, I'll suck it up. There have certainly been worse award-winners in recent years. (I never cared for A Beautiful Mind, which won a slew of big awards, for instance).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Andrew Sarris and Rex Reed both went bonkers for this movie in the latest NY Observer. I sat down to write something about the movie last night, and it occurred to me what I think is missing from the film: I don't really care about David Frost.

Yes, I did care about him during most of the movie's running time, and it made for good drama. But in the end, I wondered what it all amounted to. The guy, we're told,

saw his career recover, and, get this! -- he appeared on the covers of Time and Newsweek! Oooo-la-laaa!

. Meanwhile, Richard Nixon's legacy is said to be

that the word "gate" is now attached as a suffix to any presidential scandal

.

Really? That's it? Frost's career prospects just don't, and didn't, matter to me. It was the interview that mattered. And Nixon's Watergate fiasco, which is high strongest legacy, is far from the only thing that mattered about his presidency.

So the film ended on a weak note, for me. Even during the interview portions of the film, Frost's tactics interested me far less than did Nixon's. Nixon is simply the more compelling character in this drama, and I think Langella gives the better performance, even though Sheen is fine. But now I'm reading reviews that mention both characters, and both actors, as equals in this film, and although that's what the movie's title implies, it didn't come across that way to me as I watched it. Despite the shared screen time, it was Nixon's story that engaged me, and not so much Frost's -- which isn't to say that Frost's story bored me. I just didn't care about his career stakes.

Anyone else wanna chime in on this?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's very good, Jeffrey. Nice parallels. I was thrown for a moment by your reference to Micah, because I learned that verse in a praise song I used to sing at Campus Crusade meetings, where it was phrased, "but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God." I'd never thought of that verse as being about "seeking" justice, but "doing" justly is a form of same, don't you think?

I wish I'd thought to draw parallels between these two movies.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Elizabeth Drew rips into the movie's "distortions" of history (such as its omission of the fact that Nixon was not only paid a flat fee for the interview, but was guaranteed a percentage of the profits from TV sales etc., thereby giving him a financial incentive to make the interview as "interesting" as possible), and Jonathan Rosenbaum questions her description of the real Nixon as a "tragic Shakespearean figure".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

More on the Drew allegations here.

Nikki Finke reported a weak per-screen average for yesterday's shows of this movie. If it underperforms, that'll be disappointing to me. I don't think the film is a masterpiece, but it's very well performed and deserves to be seen.

(Finke also reported weak returns for The Reader; that would be justice!)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I liked this quite a bit, although the boxing references were getting a bit overboard by the end - I kept waiting for somebody to ring a bell.

The film is hardly sympathetic to Nixon, rather it portrays him as pitiable. Some might confuse that somewhat with sympathetic. For hardcore Nixon haters, even pity might be unacceptable. Not sure I'd point to anybody that is full on sympathetic. Frost is a bit of a puff. Reston is a ideological zealot. Brennan is blinded by loyalty.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmm...interesting reactions all around. I personally saw the film as a hybrid of W. and Good Night, and Good Luck.

On one hand, it's a condescendingly sympathetic portrait of an unpopular president that humanizes him while viewing his political career as an utter unethical disaster (a la Oliver Stone). It tries to see things from his POV, without shaking off its insistence of his guilt/ineptitude/what-have-you.

On the other hand, it celebrates watchdog reporting and newsroom tenacity by ramping up the stakes of a fabled interview/television exchange between the fourth estate and the powerful that, in reality, was not quite as important as the film makes it out to be (a la Clooney). Frost's interviews with Nixon weren't the force to be reckoned with that the movie suggests, and neither was Edward R. Murrow's joust with McCarthy. It's fun to pretend that they were important, though.

I like Frost/Nixon better than either of those films, though. Its script is more subtle, and the acting is better.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I really liked this as an actors' film. Two seasoned professionals facing off, with no directorial tricks to distract the audience.

At the same time, the sets and the lighting of the film: the contrast between the natural lighting of the outside scenes and the artificial lighting of the interview segments, as well as the supporting characters; give the film enough depth to be more than merely just a filmed version of a stage play.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's a transcript of a fantastic interview between Nixon admirer Hugh Hewitt and Obama-supporting member of the Hollywood establishment, Ron Howard, about this film.

Howard wants to sell his movie, which hasn't been buoyed too much by all those Oscar nominations, while Hewitt wants to express his views of his former boss, Nixon, whom he admires. But those partialities aside, there's a nice sense of give and take in the interview, Hewitt holding back on what might have been an easy attack on a Hollywood liberal, and Howard trying to explain that he doesn't hate Nixon and wasn't "out to get him" in the movie.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Saw this in a packed theater in Rockford yesterday. I enjoyed it a lot, especially the two leads. My one major quibble with the film is the character of Frost's girlfriend who seemed dropped into the movie for the sake of having a pretty woman on screen.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Steve Sailer:

One additional point worth mentioning is that Peter Morgan's somewhat contrived drama relies upon the contemporary audience's presumption that talk show hosts are lowbrows who are completely ignorant about anything other than celebrity culture. But that wasn't the assumption a generation ago. Big time talk show hosts back then were supposed to be middlebrows with a lively range of interests. (The pure entertainment industry talk show hosts like Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas were a tier below the top guys in prestige.)

Steve Allen, the first Tonight Show host, was a wit, a musician, and a rather earnest intellectual who wrote a shelf-full of books. Jack Paar's Tonight Shows were more like the Charlie Rose Show than today's Tonight. Carson's early 1970s competitors, Frost and Dick Cavett, were metropolitan raconteurs tied into the world of ideas in London and New York, respectively. They weren't deep thinkers, but they knew the deep thinkers. Carson was perhaps closer to the pure show biz model triumphant today, especially after his move from NYC to LA, but he had his outside interests, such as astronomy and population control, thus making the scientists Carl Sagan and Paul Ehrlich into huge celebrities.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

David Poland:

Frost/Nixon is Ron Howard's
(leaving out Grand Theft Auto, for which an accurate gross is elusive).. more than $5 million behind the previous low, the 1982 perceived-hit, Night Shift ($21.1m).

Aside from a lovely party the other night, Universal has basically bailed on the film, dumping 2/3 of the screens it added after nomination week. They cut 57% of its screen count this weekend, leading to the estimated 47% drop in gross (a good hold under the circumstance, really). $20 million domestic is not looking likely at this point. . . .

You have to go all the way back to 1983, to Tender Mercies, to find a Universal BP nominee that did a number this low ($8.4m). . . .

- - -

Giving the finger classed as 'crude' in Ontario film guide

For example, the critically acclaimed 2008 film by Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon, was found to contain three instances of a common obscenity (which the board terms the "F" word), plus one variation on that word beginning with "mother."

The rules say that first offensive word can be used "up to three times, or once per 30 minutes of the film's length" in a PG film, but the additional use of the "mother" word would push the film into the more restrictive 14A category, where viewers younger than 14 years of age must be accompanied by an adult.

However, the board took the rare step of exempting the film from the guideline and Frost/Nixon remained a PG, with a warning that "Language May Offend."

"There has been much discussion around the 3 F guideline in PG, this was raised in the 'Frost/Nixon' film. There were no elements other than the 3 F's and 1 M," say the minutes of a Nov. 28 review board meeting, also obtained under freedom of information.

"Please use discretion when classifying a movie such as this. Please take into account our audience and attach the appropriate content advisories."

Canadian Press, February 7

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Rick @ Coosa Creek Cinema:

. . . The filmmakers could have gotten it right, but they chose to tell it wrong. There seems to have been an agenda at work that refused to recognize that the apology originated in the Nixon camp. The building up of Frost into a (reluctant) hero would have been blunted by showing that he didn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...