I’ll be upfront with you and come right out and say that this film did not need to be made. I know that many people have complained that the subject matter was not eventful enough to merit a feature film, but they’re saying that because it’s true. I can sit back and enjoy the fine performances and great dialogue, but at the end of the day, the film was severely anticlimactic. Give credit to Ron Howard for trying to turn this into something it wasn’t. This isn’t the first time he’s taken a boring story and filmed it to be more exciting than it was.
For the youngin’s out there, Richard Nixon (Anthony Langella) resigned the Presidency in 1967 amid controversy from the Watergate scandal. At the time, it was obviously a huge scandal and painted America in a seriously negative light. His resignation was important because without it, he would have had to suffer through an impeachment trial and that would’ve undoubtedly brought up other indiscretions that had not yet been revealed. However, many Americans felt that his resignation was not good enough and they wanted an admittance of guilt. Insert David Frost (Michael Sheen), who, as a TV entertainer, was able to get an interview with President Nixon under the guise that he was not a real reporter and it would be easy for Nixon to manipulate the interview and restore his iconic image.
Of course, there are other stories at play here, mostly revolving around Frost’s team of investigators and researchers and the struggles they had obtaining financing for the project. Nixon had some sidebars too, but the film is focused on Frost and his desire to go through with the interview at all costs. The clear goal of Frost and his team is to get an admittance of guilt from Nixon, which never really comes. Ron Howard tries to make you think it does, but it doesn’t. It’s more than America had heard to that point, but in the context of a feature film, it wasn’t enough. That, coupled with the fact that Frost was kind of a sleazebag, made for a film where I constantly found myself questioning its importance.
However, the weak subject matter shouldn’t take away from the great performances. The dialogue was sharp, quick and everyone brought their A-game. Sheen and Langella have gotten all the attention, but Sam Rockwell, Oliver Platt, Matthew MacFayden and Rebecca Hall were equally impressive and their performances drove the film forward. This is an actor’s film with some great back and forth banter and intense monologues.
Even though the film was much ado about nothing, I still enjoyed it as a movie. Ron Howard is a skilled filmmaker and he elicited some powerful performances from his talented cast. I wasn’t around to witness the Frost/Nixon interviews firsthand, but I found the film to be a little slow and uneventful despite the great acting.