Covering one of the most devastating political events in this nation’s modern history, Frost/Nixon as a movie is superb.
Ron Howard proved again as a director that he can be trusted to handle pinnacle moments of our history with honesty and accuracy, keeping true to the spirit of the events.
Unlike many “period pieces,” this film felt like it was actually filmed in the mid-1970s. Only one thing felt anachronistic to me; Richard Nixon says “black” when referring to Diahann Carroll. Even if that’s actually what he said, my Haitian-American wife is certain he would have said “negro” or “colored.” But that was just our feeling.
Howard’s direction and the amazing set designs put the viewer into the story as if you actually had been transported back to that time. During David Frost’s interviews with former President Richard Nixon, the script kept very close to the original transcripts of the interview (some of which is available as a special feature on the DVD).
The camera work and music tracks are exactly what they should be: helpful to the storyline and conducive to the viewer getting into the place and time. In so many modern movies, the cinematography is far too distracting, and the music is presented as a separate and irritating production. Not here. It all fits. Afterward, you won’t remember the music for the most part, and that’s the way it should be.
The acting was also superb, not only from the headliners Frank Langella (Nixon) and Michael Sheen (Frost). The supporting cast was well-picked, including Kevin Bacon as Nixon’s military aide, Oliver Platt as Bob Zelnick (American journalist), and Sam Rockwell as journalist James Reston Jr.
One thing that could be distracting for modern viewers is the slow rate at which the story progresses. We’re so used to every second of a movie being filled with one-liners, music, or action, that it can be disconcerting when a film takes its time to set up scenes or develop characters.
But this also felt very ’70s to me. Look at some of the best movies from that era, and you’ll see long periods of silence, as a character shows you his emotions or engages in some laborious task. It requires patience on the viewer’s part, but it can be worth it when you receive a rich tapestry instead of a hodgepodge of quick cuts.
Only one thing was completely confounding and frustrating, and it has nothing to do with the movie itself. The MPAA gave Frost/Nixon an “R” rating for “some language.” Yet my wife and I found nothing in the movie that hasn’t been seen in many PG-13 films, and in quite a few PG movies. Considering that the real-life Richard Nixon was known to have a very foul mouth when out of the public eye, and that journalists in general can be very coarse people (I count myself among their number), the movie’s dialogue was relatively tame.
Length: 122 min (2:02)
Director: Ron Howard
Genre: History / Drama
My Rating: 9 of 10
Family Friendly: Yes
(“some language” turned out to be almost none.)
Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Sam Rockwell, Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall, Toby Jones, Kate Jennings Grant, Clint Howard