Sunday, February 1, 2009


Frost/Nixon directed by Ron Howard (U.S./U.K., 2008) 122 min.

This is a fascinating background look into the events that lead up to the famous David Frost/Richard Nixon interviews in 1977, some years after Nixon's impeachment.

Frank Langella is near perfect, even though he does not resemble Nixon in the least. He seems to inhabit the physical shell of Richard Nixon's body with his hunched shoulders, furrowed brows, melancholic cast and throaty loquaciousness.

The British actor Michael Sheen doesn't disappoint either as the charming huckster that David Frost appeared to be at the time. I still recall with pleasure his brilliant turn as Tony Blair in The Queen (2006).

Neither historical character comes off particularly well - which is to say both repulsively and immensely human, warts and all. Nixon is seen as he has often been portrayed: slippery, conniving, self-absorbed, cold, a little on the diabolical side and calculating but Peter Morgan, the scriptwriter, and Langella, have tried hard to infuse this performance with humanity, showing the loneliness and self loathing of the man, the desire to achieve greatness and the catastrophic fall from grace with his impeachment.

Sheen is equally good: portraying Frost as frivolous, charming, striving against all odds and suffering from his own sense of inferiority and self-doubt as a working class Australian lad who succeeds in class-conscious Britain and then in the much coveted American television landscape.

The performance is capped by a fictitious telephone call that a drunken Nixon makes to the bewildered Frost the night before the last interview which proves to be Nixon's downfall even as he had hoped that he could redeem himself before the American public. Although completely fabricated it serves to demonstrate the "true" essence of both man, as least as I conceive them.

I thought the film would be very dry and "talky" but it holds you every moment of its two hours. And in the way of all great films which have been talked about extensively and which you feel you know already, even though you know the end you are on the edge of your seat to see how it resolves itself.

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