Frost/Nixon – I expected better!
I’m tempted to write a very short review for Frost/Nixon (Ron Howard’s latest film). I want to say that Frost/Nixon has good performances (notably from Langella) but is ultimately a let down. Nevertheless I shall persevere in an attempt to make sense of this slightly okay-ish film.
It is important to set the scene for individuals who have no interest in politics (and more importantly, the history of politics) and yet this important factor has been omitted from the final film. Are we all supposed to know exactly what Watergate was and why Nixon was such bad man? I for one am one of these “uneducated” types who have heard of Watergate (through film references) and news reports but felt them all too boring to pay them any heed.Synopsis:
A dramatic retelling of the post-Watergate television interviews between British talk-show host David Frost and former president Richard Nixon.
Frost/Nixon is simply a statement to award bodies (such as the Oscars) stating “LOOK AT THIS FILM! WE’RE TALKING ABOUT A SERIOUS SUBJECT SO WE MUST WIN EVERY AWARD!”. Somehow this statement (subtle or otherwise) does not necessarily make a good film.
There is no question that Frank Langella’s Nixon is well played but his “polar opposite” Frost (played by Michael Sheen) is hollow in his performance. Perhaps this was the intention as David Frost was considered something of a playboy in his day and not a reporter (hard to believe now as you watch him on “Through the Keyhole”). The character of David Frost is no er….David to Langella’s Goliath!
It would be an interesting concept to discover David Frost’s actual thoughts of this film and whether he enjoyed it or not. The internet is rife with discussions of discrepancies with the true events and the artistic licence being used. Sadly though, this film is likely to become the history revision of school children around the world and if it is not completely accurate then history will have been altered.
To say that this film is slow is like stating that a dead cat is merely having a nap. It takes nearly an hour to get to the interviews (most of which are completely dull) and the crescendo in the final act is over far too quickly to fully appreciate. If you are going to use artistic licence then at least ignore the initial interviews and concentrate on the interesting one (the last). But no! We all have to suffer the indignity of watching Michael Sheen’s Frost look very silly whilst retaining a hopeless optimism throughout. How can we empathise with an individual if we think he has achieved more than most of us would do in our lifetime? David Frost was a successful TV presenter. The fact that he wanted to interview Nixon is neither here nor there.
The voices of both Nixon and Frost are spot on and the supporting cast including Kevin Bacon, Toby Jones, Oliver Platt and Sam Rockwell are all fairly solid. Unfortunately they are pushed aside to make way for Sheen’s character who is ultimately disappointing!
I have no doubt that this film has an interest to many people but surely if you are going to play “hide a history lesson in a film whilst changing it a bit” then at least tell us clearly what it is about! Do we all have to be political correspondents before we understand it? Surely then this film is a reminder that politicians tend to speak in a way that most of us lose interest after about ten seconds of them speaking. I would have preferred the movie as bullet points (at least then I wouldn’t have yawned as much).
To call Frost/Nixon a failure is completely unfair. Langella’s is excellent and he should be recognised for that. Unfortunately the story is missing something vital and that is a back-story! By not explaining the history more explicitly, 70% of the audience sits there wondering when it will be explained. I for one, am still waiting for that explanation.
Frost/Nixon is not as good as it should be. Perhaps Ron Howard should have considered intercutting the real interviews with the film to give it more authenticity. Perhaps Ron Howard should have given a prologue (for the laymen amongst us). Perhaps Ron Howard should keep away from retellings of history!
Rating: 3 out of 5