| It seems apropos to culminate this historic presidential election year by looking back to another milestone political event when a popular British talk show host put a disgraced president under hot television lights seeking the truth and an admission of guilt.
Ron Howard directs this “intellectual Rocky” which won the 2007 Tony Award for Best Play. Versatile writer Peter Morgan (“The Queen”) has adapted his own play for the screen. Frank Langella (as Richard Nixon) and Michael Sheen (as David Frost) reprise the roles they created on stage.
Fort-five million viewers watched a series of four 90-minute televised interviews that took place three years after Nixon’s resignation from office. This finely crafted masterpiece proceeds in a smooth manner and is loaded with verbal fireworks.
The audience will revel in the satisfaction derived from such flawless execution in a polished presentation. There is not a hint of a stagey feel. You have to see to believe the give-and-take verbal sparring from these bright and intelligent combatants.
Howard emphasizes the power of the facial close-up much like a poker player looks for a “tell” to gain a betting advantage. The use of the suffix “gate” for any political wrongdoing can be traced back to Watergate.
Frost comes across as a handsome and eligible young bachelor. He meets Caroline (Rebecca Hall from “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and “The Prestige”), a beautiful gal on an airplane flight from London to Los Angeles and invites her along for the entire interview process. This syndicated journalist had the standard opening of “Hello, good evening and welcome.” The movie is loaded with trivia. Frost actually fronted the $600,000 paid to Nixon.
Diane Sawyer was a Nixon aide who helped prepare him for the interviews. Langella won the 2007 Tony Award for Best Actor. He establishes himself as one of the frontrunners for the Oscar in the same category. If he wins the gold statuette, he will become only the 10th actor to accomplish this feat.
Other notable stars who have won both the Tony and Oscar for the same role include Paul Scofield, Shirley Booth, Jose Ferrer, Yul Brynner, Rex Harrison, Joel Grey and Anne Bancroft. Langella has the mannerisms, physical slouch and the voice of “Tricky Dick.” His character excels at playing mind games and telling anecdotal stories in a rambling fashion to eat up air time.
The supporting cast that includes Kevin Bacon, Sam Rockwell, Oliver Platt and Toby Jones make the most of their limited roles and help provide the background information leading up to the point where the cameras start rolling. Archival news footage is seamlessly inserted into the narrative.
Hans Zimmer provides yet another fabulous musical score. The hair, makeup and wardrobes are top drawer. This is one of the best movies of 2008. Now playing at AMC Studio 30 and Cinemark Palace on the Plaza.
Keith Cohen, "The Movie Guy"