January 26, 2009

F/N


I was so disappointed to have missed Frost/Nixon during its New York run. At least Ron Howard gave us the film adaptation with its original West End and Broadway stars. Frank Langella and Michael Sheen give masterful performances as the disgraced ex-president and the flamboyant talk show host who got Richard Nixon to admit he let down the American people. Was that gotcha journalism?
I never saw the original interviews so to watch parts of it now onscreen made for a totally engrossing film-viewing experience. Peter Morgan's script is so funny, given justice by an able supporting cast (Kevin Bacon as Nixon's loyal aide Jack Brennan, Sam Rockwell as an anti-Nixon author and researcher, Matthew MacFayden as producer John Birt and Oliver Platt as ABC exec Bob Zelnick).

But the film obviously belongs to its stars. To see Mr. Sheen's David Frost desperately trying to get financial backing for the interviews and save his career, bungling his way through the initial interviews but eventually triumphing in their verbal tussles was captivating. Frank Langella's portrayal of 'Tricky Dick' was equally compelling. His attempts to throw off his adversary before each interview were hilarious. He managed to make lonely, complex and morally ambiguous Nixon a sympathetic figure. After inauguration week, I couldn't help but think of the unpopular president we just said goodbye to, and if or how his image can be rehabilitated by the passage of time. Mr. Nixon's ignominious presidency never did.

Kindof-a-spoiler: It was probably artistic license, but it's fun to think that even former US presidents are not immune to drunk dialing.

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