Frost/Nixon (2008) - review

Door Janreviews gepubliceerd op Wednesday 06 April 22:40

This “thinking person’s Rocky”, as director Ron Howard describes this film, features Michael Sheen as Sir David Frost and Frank Langella as President Richard Nixon with the former interviewing the latter some time after the Watergate scandal.

The title really represents this film’s content: we meet both the interviewer and the interviewee throughout the story. It’s definitely beneficial that the film does not villify the former president, but gives us an idea of how he was as a human being. I appreciated that we heard some of Nixon’s Republican beliefs through his conversations outside of the actual interview: he says that living in Monte Carlo must be nice, because they don’t pay a lot of taxes there; he shows disapproval for an interracial relationship that Frost had had; he dislikes Frost’s shoes because they don’t have laces and he consequently finds them effeminate. The film stays on track and that is an advantage without a doubt. We do learn about Frost’s relationships and his career on the one hand and Nixon’s wife and his frustration with being humiliated by the scandal on the other hand, but the film always brings us back to that duel between Frost and Nixon.

Although Langella does not really look like or sound like Nixon, who had a much bigger head with a higher brow and fuller cheeks, who was a few inches shorter and whose voice wasn’t nearly as deep as Langella’s, I do think he delivered a realistic representation of his personality. The same is true for Sheen as Frost, but he sells the appearance of a 1970s celebrity very well: big coiffed hair, always smiling widely and the fake politeness. The last quality definitely shows in a brief scene at Heathrow when a fan asks him for an autograph.

“Frost/Nixon” does not pass the Bechdel test: there are three female characters (Caroline Cushing, Diane Sawyer and Pat Nixon) and none of them are ever in the same room, let alone speak to each other. Cushing is the only female character who has a noteworthy role, but she does not move the story forward in any way. Her only purpose in this film is to accompany David while in California. I did find it odd that Sawyer hardly had any lines throughout this film, because she is a very famous journalist in the U.S. who has won a Peabody Award. I do appreciate why the film does not have more female roles: there were hardly women involved in the process of this interview. The cast is very small and consists of real people, so there wasn’t any room for a role that could’ve been played by a woman. I think it’s best that this film represents the reality and didn’t try to force in some female characters.

I highly recommend “Frost/Nixon” to anyone who is interested in American politics or the ins and outs of high-profile journalism or simply to anyone who enjoys a dramatic account of an iconic moment in recent American history.  

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