Monday, March 23, 2009

Frost/Nixon (2008)

Ron Howard is fundamentally a director of hope. Maybe it's all the apple pie he ate at the craft table on the set of "The Andy Griffith Show"...who know?
But he has an Obama-esque sunny-side up artistic disposition that is for sure.
So credit him for some irony when he can a former Dracula of the stage and screen, Frank Langella as disgraced US President Richard Milhous Nixon in a film detailing his fateful duel with TV interviewer David Frost in 1977.
Both men are strivers you see, Frost (played by chipper chirpy Michael Sheen) wants to use the legitimacy of a Nixon interview to burnish his record and improve his negotiating position with the tv networks.
Nixon is bored and humiliated in retirement, he longs for vindication even if it is nothing more than artfully avoiding any admission of criminal wrongdoing on the air.
Langella's heavy awkward performance anchors the film he makes even Nixon's undeniable cunning seems somehow maladroit....Tricky Dick can out-manuever but he can't really ever convince anyone and so he goes stumbling on and on never a pratfall nor can stand upright either.
Frost of course, initially can't get a handle on Nixon until one night Tricky Dick calls up in a serious drunken funk railing against the elites and the liberals who looked down on him, all his life.
And in a moment, Frost gets it, Nixon the middle class striver derives nothing but pain from all his striving, he hates cajoling people, he has no time for frivolity....he is a misanthrope in short.
Frost on the other hand, glories in his striving, the whole Nixon interview is another rung on the ladder to loves it, the other loathes it.
Left alone, he'd be fine, pushing himnself into the public arena yields up only Watergate....
And so armed, Frost at last gives Nixon the great confrontation with the phantom liberal elite he so vocally loathes and forces the old man to something akin to guilt.
For this, Nixon thanks him later on, and dubs Frost a "worthy adversary"...indeed what some men will do to avoid playing cribbage on the porch once retired.
Can't say that Frost/Nixon is Howard's best film, indeed I'm not sure he is truly touched with greatness but here at least he got outside his favored genre and delivered up something different.

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