The Front Runner - 2018
Director(s): Jason Reitman
Writer(s): Matt Bai, Jay Carson and Jason Reitman (screenplay) / Matt Bai (book)
Cinematography by: Eric Steelberg
Editor(s): Stefan Grube
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, J.K. Simmons, Mamoudou Athie, Alfred Molina and Kaitlyn Dever
The Front Runner was a movie, for me, that came out of nowhere. I am usually aware of what is coming down the pipeline, my wife would say a bit too obsessive, and I start creating a list for next year's movies (2019 is already pretty long). The Front Runner was not on my list. It premiered in this year's Telluride Film Festival, and the buzz was none existent, so my expectations were even lower. However, after reading up on the plot, and the real story behind it, I knew it was a movie I should watch. Walking out, I was very underwhelmed with the result. Let's talk about it.
The story centers around the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination run of Gary Hart (Jackman), U.S. senator from Colorado. Hart was a known recluse avoiding any inquiry into his personal life, including his marital status, this leads to journalist obsessing over it, and it leads to them finding out he was having affairs. This discovery becomes the only subject anyone wants to talk about overshadowing his political views and ultimately destroying his personal life and his political career. The aspect of the script I was most looking forward to was the shift from judging a politician on his views to judging them on their personal life. While they explore this, it felt like they never when full into the ramifications of this shift and how it drastically changed the political landscape we currently live in today. Jackman was great at portraying how out of bounds the media is now being with their inquiries, but the supporting cast just never carried or help carry that weight, in the end, creating an uneven tone throughout the runtime.
There is a line that stood out to me in the movie said by Jackman, on how not all roads are paved for us. Sadly, the road that Grant paved for the future generations of politicians is one that is drenched in tabloids and speculations regarding their personal lives. Nobody cares if the CEO of any company is cheating on his partner, as long as he or she is doing their job for their company. However, if you are running for public office, everything from your parents to your kids is fair game in the media, and especially for the opponents, you are running against in the race.
Quick note: the direction was straightforward, and it doesn't call attention to itself. Reitman, for the most part, lets the events and the actors speak for themselves.
Hugh Jackman as Grant was spectacular, as he completely embodied the character. Everything from his tone of voice, his accent, and his body language helped shape his character, and promoting the audience connection to his circumstance, despite the script glossing over it. The rest of the cast is good, but nobody stands out as they are massively underused and used as fillers for either backstory or expositional dialogue.
The Front Runner is a good political drama that shines a light, even if it's a dim one, on an issue that has sadly become the norm in our society. While it boasts an excellent performance from Jackman, the rest of the cast is underwhelming, let down by a script that never dug beyond the surface of the issue. Jackman is why I love movies.
Front Runner is currently playing in theaters. Wait for it on Netflix.
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