Directed by: Ron Howard
Premise: A dramatization of the post-Watergate interview between British talk show host David Frost (Michael Sheen) and former president Richard Nixon (Frank Langella).
What Works: Frost/Nixon is a very impressive piece of film that balances expository information with drama. The film is told in a style that merges the documentary with dramatization by playing out the events and then cutting to interviews of the supporting cast, speaking about the events in character but from the near future. The script manages to impart all the necessary historical information to make sense of what has happened and to understand the significance of the interviews. At the same time, the picture carefully studies the two men through a pair of performances that are really tremendous. Michael Sheen is great as David Frost as he conveys Frost’s showbiz savvy but also gets beneath the character’s skin and reveals the lonely man who realizes the superficiality of the glamour and wants to be taken seriously. Frank Langella provides one of the great cinematic performances of Richard Nixon, and his work stands up with such great incarnations as Anthony Hopkins in Oliver Stone’s Nixon. This film is narrower in its scope but Langella is able to dig deep into the character and expose Nixon’s isolation and paranoia. The mergence of the personal and the political and the relationship between those two things comes together in a terrific climax.
What Doesn’t: Those looking for a deeper understanding of Nixon and his presidency will not find it here, since the film’s scope is rather limited. There is enough information in Frost/Nixon that those unfamiliar with the details of Watergate will be able to follow the action of the story, but those familiar with the time period and the legal case will get much more out of the film.
Bottom Line: Frost/Nixon is one of the best films Ron Howard has made. It has less flash than some of his other work, but the film does have quite a bit of substance and performances that are really impressive.
Episode: #226 (February 8, 2009)