Frank Langella renders Richard Nixon as slower, older and heftier than he really was; somewhere between a punch drunk prize fighter and a waning silverbacked gorilla, snorting and puffing at the attentions of a glad-handing young dilettante. Michael Sheen plays that glad-handing dilettante, British talk show host David Frost in truth a little unevenly: at times caricaturing his bouffant mincing drawl like an effete Austin Powers, at times a spookily accurate rendition, at times a diluted one not a million miles away from the same actor's celebrated portrayal of British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
But this unevenness is I think demanded by the script which asks us to believe the same man was by turns the sort of international playboy shagadelically chatting up first class posh girls over the mid Atlantic, a superficial chancer prepared to take on any assignment including (quel horreur!) hosting an Australian chat show, an impulsive bluffer forced into a desperate fundraising measures by a rash commitment which he couldn't back up and an incisive political analyst, able finally to pull Richard Nixon limb from limb when it seemed all was intractably lost. I have a suspicion Frost wasn't really any of things, at least not to anything like the degree suggested here.
But that is what good drama requires, and in this way and in others the dramatic archetypes on which the screenplay was surely based occasionally show through. In a historical drama the screenplay writer's job is to extrude from the intractably interwoven fabric of fact a recognisable narrative when in reality one never existed. Ron Howard does this artfully but is almost too successful for his own good. The narrative prescribes a perfect "confronting the monster" trajectory, with all the phases and characters clearly articulated: henchmen, damsels, wise counsel, facilitating assistants, a call to challenge, early success, dramatic reversal and then triumph out of certain defeat.
But real life, as they say, doesn't follow the script. Now it might just be that the Nixon interviews really did play out in so dramatically perfect a fashion, but you do have to wonder how much additional fictionalising the screenplay involves. A thoroughly implausible drunken midnight conversation, in particular, had the ring of a dramatic as opposed to historical device.
That said, for the very same reason, the Frost/Nixon is extremely entertaining and has piqued my interest enough to find out some more. Special mention should go to the extremely effective secondary cast: Sam Rockwell - not that long ago Zaphod Beeblebrox - all but unrecognisable as Frost's excitable and overly-principled anti-Nixon researcher, Kevin Bacon's typically assured and unflashy portrayal of Nixon's chief of staff Jack Brennan and Toby Jones' creepy portrayal of Nixon's weirdo PR Guy, Swifty Lazar.
I went into Frost/Nixon expecting to see a political character drama which explored the more sensitive side of disgraced former President Richard Nixon. But Ron Howard's acclaimed movie isn't like that at all. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, mind you. It gives us a hero to root for and an evil Cobra Kai villain to throw our empty pop cans at. The light and dark warriors are established from the very beginning of the movie, and there is very little if anything done to remove Richard Nixon the … more
Entertainment, Frost/Nixon is; history, of course, it's not. (But then who expects history from the movies?) David Frost, if he doesn't hate Michael Sheen's amusing parody of himself, should. Sheen's Frost is a young man in love with the excitement and high life of being a television celebrity, as eager and quick as a chipmunk and as shallow as a plate. The portrayal of Richard Nixon, however, is misleading. For the purposes … more
A better title for "Frost/Nixon" would be to replace the slash with a "vs.," to emphasize how director Ron Howard's latest generates exciting tension through a battle of the wits. Set in 1977, the film chronicles how British television personality David Frost who in 1977 had the rare opportunity to interview and confront former president Richard Nixon on his abuse of governmental power without a public apology. Frost sought to push his fame to new heights, while Nixon hoped to … more
I'm now finishing this review post-oscars and I do have to say that Frost/Nixon got screwed a little bit. I could be wrong, but I don't think it won one Oscar. Ron Howard did such a wonderful job with this film just for the fact that he took something from the stage and put it to screen so I don't think this film got all the recognition it deserved. Despite the fact that I wasn't around during the Nixon Administration or when the events of this film took place, … more
As historical fiction, this film is wonderful. I'm a history buff and I love seeing these critical moments in history dramatized. However, audiences that normally would never watch a documentary about Watergate can enjoy this film. The Nixon/Frost interviews are not the obvious choice for a historical drama about Nixon (the Watergate scandal itself seems the more obvious choice, as in "All the President's Men"). Yet, this film makes the run-up to the interview and the interview itself as dramatic … more
Pros: Supporting cast Cons: Very dull storyline The Bottom Line: Even if you are a Nixon/Watergate buff, this isn't required watching. If you are such a buff, maybe good for a rainy day. Otherwise, find another bio-pic. Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot. The worst plays are more intimate than great movies. Sitting in the audience watching live actors treading … more
FROST/NIXON is one of the most successful screen adaptations of a play yet made. Perhaps that is due in part to the fact that the popular stage play by Peter Morgan was revised for the screen by the playwright, but it is also to the credit of director Ron Howard who managed to suffuse the 'play as movie' with such atmosphere and feeling of spontaneity that the rather long movie seems to whisk by more rapidly than history! Everyone knows of the infamous David Frost interview … more
Adapted from the fairly successful stage play, FROST/NIXON is a fictionalized account of the interview process and sessions that took place between world media darling David Frost (Michael Sheen) and former President Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) in 1977. The film follows Frost as he seeks to get back into the big time (television in America) by gaining an exclusive set of interviews with Nixon to be broadcast on network television. Nixon has been living in relative seclusion since resigning from … more
This detailed recreation of David Frost's 1977 interviews with President Nixon is surprisingly engaging. The movie takes us back to a time when Presidents didn't pop up on every channel on a daily basis as they do now. Convincing Nixon to be interviewed following the Watergate scandal was quite a coup, even though Frost had a hard time selling it to networks and sponsors. Michael Sheen (The Queen) portrays Frost as a confident, ambitious journalist and playboy. Frank Langella … more
In March of 1977, British television personality David Frost interviewed former President of the United States Richard Nixon in a series of four ninety-minute installments. On the basis of the film that recreates these interviews, Ron Howard's "Frost/Nixon," I wish I had been around to see them when they originally aired. Partly, it has to do with the fact that they revealed a great deal about Nixon, and I'm not merely referring to historical facts; his on-camera mannerisms spoke volumes about him, … more
Sounds like a good match: a historical drama from the author ofThe Queen, but with an American subject in the generational wheelhouse of director Ron Howard. And so Peter Morgan's Tony-winning play morphs into a Hollywood movie under the wing of theApollo 13guy. Morgan's subject is a curious moment of post-Watergate shakeout: British TV host David Frost's long-form interviews with ex-President Richard Nixon, conducted in 1977. It was a big ratings success at the time, justifying the somewhat controversial decision to cut an enormous check for Nixon's services. The movie adds a mockumentary note to the otherwise straightforward style, having direct-to-camera addresses from various aides to Frost and Nixon (played by the likes of Oliver Platt, Sam Rockwell, and Kevin Bacon); these basically tell us things we already glean from the rest of the movie, adding unnecessary melodrama and upping the stakes. In this curious scheme, the success of Frost's career, which could bellyflop if he doesn't get something worthwhile out of the cagey, long-winded Nixon, is given somewhat more weight than the actual revelations of the interviews. Even with these questionable storytelling decisions, there's still the spectacle of two actors going at it hammer and tongs, and on that level the movie offers some heat. Michael Sheen, who played Tony Blair not only inThe Queenbut also in another Morgan-scripted project,The Deal, is adept at catching David Frost's ...