Friday, February 3, 2012
(December 2008, U.S.)
If you go back to the earlier part of my blog and look up ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN (1976), you'll find that I mention that President Richard Nixon's resignation in August 1974 was the first political event I recall being aware of at the age of seven (I TOLD you I had an unnaturally good memory!). Nearly three years after that, I can actually recall television commercials of British television broadcaster David Frost announcing his forthcoming interviews with Nixon. Naturally, at only the age of ten, I had no interest in such things, so I never actually watched the them. To be honest, I had just about completely disregarded that small piece of television and political history until I'd heard about Peter Morgan's 2006 play, which I did find a particularly intruiging concept for a stage production. Unfortunately, I never saw THAT either.
But when director Ron Howard's film version of FROST/NIXON hit movie screens two years later, I was practically the first one on line. This is a film where dialogue, its pace and its delivery are essential to how well the drama is pulled off. In its most raw form, the dialogue of the interviews themselves are nothing short of an intense verbal boxing match with each opponent swinging at each other at various speeds and strengths to see which one is going to go down first. And just like any traditional movie boxing match, you have the underdog of Frost (played wonderfully by Michael Sheen) putting his career, reputation and finances on the line to give the American viewing audience something they so desperately need to hear; a confession and an apology from Nixon (played effectively by Frank Langella) after having put America through more than two years of corruption chaos with the Watergate scandal. In the beginning, like the lovable movie underdog, Frost is up against the ropes, taking hard punches from Nixon and it appears that he'll go down for the count. But just a moment...stop the presses! Suddenly Frost comes out swinging in the last round armed with information and secrets that will ultimately reduce Nixon to a pitiful child, filled with regret and sorrow...and the best part is that it's not fiction. Rent the original Frost/Nixon interviews of 1977 and you'll see that nearly all of the dialogue, mannerisms and reactions are virtually identical to what was portrayed on screen. You see, sometimes art can be wonderfully faithful to life.
Sheen and Langella are perfect in their roles, as they succeed in truly embodying them rather than just traditional Hollywood mimicry (they were the stars of the original play, too). I should also point out at the end of this film, there's an interesting point made about Richard Nixon's only real lasting legacy is the suffix "gate" being added to any political scandal since then. Anyone remember "Iran-gate" of 1987?
Favorite line or dialogue:
Richard Nixon: "Look, when you're in office you gotta do a lot of things sometimes that are not always in the strictest sense of the law, legal, but you do them because they're in the greater interest of the nation."
David Frost: "Alright wait, just so I understand correctly, are you really saying that in certain situations the President can decide whether it's in the best interest of the nation and then do something illegal...?"
Nixon: "I'm saying that when the President does it, that means it's NOT illegal!"
Frost: "I'm sorry?"