Frost/Nixon (2008)


A bad movie. I’d skip it.

The awful, crooked Nixon is played well by Frank Langella (who played him in the stage version), but the performance, adding nothing to our knowledge and sense of the lamentable man, isn’t worth the outing to this otherwise long and boring movie. A better title would have been, Kicking A Dead Horse.

The main problem is Peter Morgan, who wrote this bomb and also wrote The Queen. He also was co-writer of the awful Last King of Scotland. Three strikes.

Morgan keeps trying to turn media types into heroes, which is usually mission impossible: as you recall, he was upset with Queen Elizabeth because of her contempt for the tabloid celeb media’s schlock-fests over Princess Diana; Morgan lauds Maury Povich et al. over the Queen.

In Frost/Nixon, the former, a Media Think Person akin to Larry King (it hurts even to type that name), is supposed to have brought Nixon to a humbling justice after all other institutions and officials had failed, and this via Frost’s interviews of Nixon in 1977. This is a stretch and then some. And it’s old news. Nixon got pushed out, and Frost accomplished little other than to contribute substantial money to Nixon’s bank account to get the tricky one on-camera for grand anecdotes. The signature piece of dialog in this yawner is Frost’s excited, “We might get four hundred million viewers!”: yes, the media at its most heroic.

Michael Sheen is entirely unconvincing and unsympathetic as Frost, but that’s because of Morgan’s silly script. Sam Rockwell as James Reston, Jr. is irritatingly juvenile as the shrill, indignant, last protector of democratic America in Dorm Room 101. (“Hey, guys, let’s set a trap for Tricky Dick!”).

I read somewhere long ago that Gore Vidal, certainly no admirer of Nixon, refused at a Hollywood party to shake Oliver Stone’s hand because Vidal saw Stone as having told lies about Nixon in Stone’s movie about that disgraced and dangerous president. Here, it’d probably take some effort to wake Vidal up from a nap brought on by boredom to say something nasty, and deserved, about Nixon/Frost.