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Howard's Latest Greatest: Frost/Nixon

Published December 5, 2008 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of Variance Films
Frost/Nixon PosterFrost/Nixon
Frost/Nixon is Ron Howard's best movie since Parenthood. I wasn't in love with A Beautiful Mind and even the good ones like Apollo 13 didn't resonate with me as much.

Review: Frost/Nixon


Obviously the movie hinges on Frank Langella, since Nixon is the most well known character and the controversial hook of the piece. Langella sells it with the voice and the body language, so it works with minimal facial adjustments. My mom says Frank Langella must win an Oscar. I said Frank Langella does a better Nixon than Anthony Hopkins. Then my mom said he does a better Nixon than Nixon, which is funny and I won't steal credit for that joke. I don't know David Frost so I trust Michael Sheen on that.

Nixon is charming, smart and slick in all the exchanges. He's the criminal you want helping you. He knows about tax havens and he'll advise the most advantageous action regardless of the ethical implications. It sets up a really dramatic build as Frost has to wear him down by the end.

It also shows the passion and intensity of research. Even researchers with vastly different motivation all get into the thrill of getting some real answers out of the guy. I'm the same way when I prep to interview Zac Efron.


In the interview situation, it also shows the difference between theoretical conviction and the reality of a physical presence. It's a fascinating study in conversation in an age of texting and abbreviation. There are two opposing goals and tactics pushing for dominance.

The first step in making a movie out of the play seems to be shooting faux documentary interviews with the actors playing the characters related to the drama. That sets up a format that could not have existed on stage, though it's still a fake documentary because it's scripted and actors. It's not used overbearingly, just a device to set the film's historical tone.

I do wish they'd stop shooting every movie handheld now. It must be contagious. Honestly, there's no artistic achievement in shaking things around. Perhaps they thought tripods were too static for a dialogue movie but the conversation is so fascinating, they didn't need to show off.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Variance Films
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