Sunday, April 26, 2009

Frost/Nixon (Howard)

When he's not passing the blunt in the club, Ron Howard is busy transforming Peter Morgan plays into Oscar-nominated films. Peter Morgan has been on a bit of a hot streak lately. I guess he's the go-to guy for finely-nuanced historical/political dramas. Shortly after Frost/Nixon made its appearance as a Broadway play, Hollywood hit us with the Morgan-penned double whammy of The Queen and The Last King of Scotland. Now that Frost/Nixon is a movie, I have to say that I don't think it's as good as either of those two.

First of all: big deal. I'm not convinced that these interviews were all that important. It seems like Peter Morgan just wanted to tackle Nixon from a fresh, overlooked angle. Maybe a movie about Pat Nixon's secret vibrator or something, but not this. Another problem is that in the age of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Nixon is kind of old news. Back in the '90s, it was sort of shocking to think about Nixon. Like, "Wow, what a complex, conflicted guy, I can't believe our president was that Shakespearean." But now we have Sarah Palin. I don't think this movie is as profound as it wants to be.

It's funny how these things work. When I first heard about Frost/Nixon, I thought, "Hmm, that sounds good, Nixon's always fascinating, etc." But when I saw the movie I felt like I'd been there, done that. When I first heard about The Queen I thought, "Bor-ing, I don't understand everybody's obsession with the royal family anyway, why the hell would I want to see this?" But when I saw it! He made the Queen of England seem way more interesting than she probably really is. She has to pass gas like everybody else, you know?

That's the problem. I have yet to see a cinematic portrayal of Nixon that's more interesting to watch than actual footage of Nixon himself. Every actor stepping into the role, be they Anthony Hopkins or Philip Baker Hall, always makes him seem too angry, too pathetic, too unhinged. The real Nixon had a smooth, congenial side to him. For thirty years he was able to convince a large portion of America that he was a perfect model citizen. Dick didn't always come off so damn tricky. Frank Langella gives it his best shot but the question remains: is this film more interesting to watch than footage of the actual Frost/Nixon interviews? I just took a peek at a couple of clips on YouTube, I have my answer, and Ron Howard isn't going to like it.

"Film critic" rating: ****
"Little Earl" rating: **1/2


Herr Zrbo said...

What happened to the original pic?

Little Earl said...

I realized the original pic was from the play, not the movie.

You're not supposed to be checking the blog that often!

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