Thursday, December 04, 2008

Frost/Nixon: Get Ready For The Close-up

I hope it [Frost/Nixon] reminds us of the pleasure and the excitement of a good human drama well-played.--Ron Howard, Director, "Frost/Nixon".

Watergate occurred too long ago--over 30 years ago to be exact; Nixon was never pictured next to Martin on a church fan; there's no black people in the film, and who is David Frost, anyway? That kind of small thinking almost led me to miss one of the best films I've seen this year.

So what made this new Ron Howard movie so good to me? Like the above quote states, it was indeed a "good drama well played out". Micheal Sheen (Frost) and Frank Langella (Nixon) portrayed their individual roles wonderfully turning these almost forgotten celebrity/political figures into people with relatable human flaws and weaknesses. In other words, you won't need an American history lesson to understand the film.

Langella's Nixon is especially engaging as he moves us from the stereotypical, "I will not tell a lie," imitations to a more insightful, thoughtful approach, giving us clues into the man, Richard Nixon, not just the political figure. Of course, that's also thanks to great screenwriting by Peter Morgan ("The Queen" and "Last King of Scotland").

The story revolves around charming British talk show host by day/playboy by night, David Frost--former fiancee of Diahann Carrol for you celebrity gossip fans--and his attempt to be taken seriously in the television industry by regaining his star-power in Hollywood. That I can relate to--not the star power part, but the taken seriously part. Perception is especially key in this industry.

The first and greatest sin of television is that it simplifies....Whole careers become reduced to a single snapshot.--James Reston, Jr., "Frost/Nixon" screenplay.

While watching Nixon on tv make his final exit from the White House, Frost gets the idea that a four-day sit down interview with the shamed former president would take his career to the next level. But would Nixon agree to do it? And where would the money come from to fund the endeavor? It's a lesson in tv producing 101 as Frost and Nixon prepare to face off in the biggest "no holds barred" tv event of 1977, and still the most watched news programs in tv history.

But the more important lesson in this film is just how relevant the television interview has become in our society. Cameras don't lie per se, people do. And with the one-two punch of a well-timed jabbing question and the camera close-up capturing every nuance, Frost gave the world as near to a confession as it would get from a cunning, former president skilled in evading hard questions and manipulation. Truly, the defeated look on Langella's face as the weight of the consequences bore on his mind is simply priceless.

"Frost/Nixon" opens this Friday. Visit www.frostnixon.net to get more information on the cast, movie trailers, and downloads. And don't let small thinking keep you from seeing it in theaters.

And while the media is, to be sure, an industry vying for customers, it can and must somehow also be that instrument of enlightenment for us, the public who so desperately rely on them--Ron Howard


2 comments:

frederick said...

Great story! I've heard nothing but wonderful things about this movie. If I may recommend "Slumdog Millionaire" for you to view, I shall. I haven't seen it yet, but nothing but exemplary views from people who've seen it. Take care!

ellenoir1@aol.com said...

Thanks Fred! Really, this movie will be added to my collection for future viewing. I saw a little of myself in Frost as he interviewed Nixon.

Though I prepare for celebrity interviews through research, when I finally get to talk the individual I sometimes get caught in letting them talk forever. I'm a sponge when good info is being shared. So sometimes I forget to jump in to the conversation to ask questions which means another long editing session is ahead.