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Frost/Nixon (2008)

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Ron Howard’s films are usually simplistic and condescending, but they generally deal with trivial subject matter (A Beautiful Mind, Edtv, How the Grinch Stole Christmas). Frost/Nixon, on the other hand, is his attempt to be for the first time, serious, and whereas it is by far the most entertaining of his films to date, it is also the most unnerving. Based on play by Peter Morgan (The Queen), the film has the slightly preposterous premise that Richard Nixon, after his resignation from the presidency of the United States following Watergate, was a deeply troubled man who needed an outlet, precisely to communicate an apology to the American public, and that by doing so on the Frost interviews, he got rid of his demons.

As Elizabeth Drew made perfectly clear in her column at the Huffington Post (“A Dishonorable Distortion of History“), Morgan’s and Howard’s version of the facts is ludicrous, a filmic construct bearing no more relation to reality than Howard’s previous movie (The Da Vinci Code). While it’s not necessary that a historical movie dealing with historical figures has to be factual (take Oliver Stone’s fascinating JFK and Nixon, for instance), Frost/Nixon is dangerous because it romanticizes Nixon too much. Frank Langella’s portrayal of Nixon is delightful, making him a towering figure who’s at the same time brilliant, fallible, funny and heroic: not at all what one would expect from Richard Nixon. By the same token, the conscientious David Frost is bashed to the point of ridicule, played as a brainless womanizer who hopes the Nixon interviews will bring him a lot of dough.

For a 2008 audience, Langella’s Nixon evokes the illusion that America’s 37th president was a far more interesting and competent man than its current president, George W. Bush. It probably was, but you come out of the movie thinking not of Nixon’s atrocities and mistakes – alluded to only indirectly – but fascinated by Langella, and we confuse the performance for the man himself. I’ve read more than one review, by people who lived in the Nixon administration, dazzled by how this man was just a misunderstood genius. He wasn’t, and the Frost/Nixon interviews did nothing to redeem him (personally, who knows?) in the American public’s eye: it was a ploy engineered by Nixon and his assessors, and he was the one who profited the most from it, facts that the film omits.


Written by Joe

janeiro 3, 2009 às 3:26 pm

Publicado em reviews

2 Respostas

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  1. I can’t agree with your claim that Ron Howard films usually deal with trivial subject matters, since defining what’s trivial and what’s not can be very subjective. John Nash’s life, for example, is full of idiosyncrasies and contradictions leading to a remarkable story — if not a smashing film. Therefore, I would rephrase your statement: Ron Howard films usually treat their subject matters as they were trivial.


    janeiro 3, 2009 at 4:35 pm

  2. Definitely true that Howard deals with serious subjects as if they were trivial in both Frost/Nixon and A Beautiful Mind.

    But this is the last time I answer any of your comments: I wasted 30 seconds of my life with you, 30 seconds I could’ve spent creating something. Go away, you and your evil clutches of scientology-sympathizing…


    janeiro 3, 2009 at 5:23 pm

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