17 January 2009

At the movies: Frost/Nixon.

Here's the backstory and intricate machinations that resulted in British journalist David Frost securing the first in-depth interviews with disgraced former President Richard Nixon in 1977. Built around screenwriter Peter Morgan's stage play, Frost/Nixon gives us Michael Sheen (The Queen) as Frost and Frank Langella as Nixon and lets the tension drive the proceedings. Presidential power versus freedom of the press, and the winner gets to cash the check and reap the whirlwind.

Much like Doubt, another stage success making its cinematic bow this week, Frost/Nixon is an opportunity to watch two great actors spar. Unlike Doubt, you've got the original Broadway stars of the play recreating their roles, and the end result is a great study in conversation and nuance. But some attention must be drawn to the way the film diminishes the direct strengths of the play by burying the proceedings in framing devices and documentary talking heads to give historical context to who Nixon was.

It's very odd to have a film that seems determined to cover its bases with an audience that likely doesn't care about the downfall of Richard Nixon. One could come into Frost/Nixon knowing nothing about Tricky Dick and leave it reasonably informed, such is the degree that Director Ron Howard couches the film in history. But when it sets itself on the historic Frost/Nixon interviews, it's an
electrifying experience.

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