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Richard Nixon resigned from the office of the presidency on August 9, 1974, rather than face impeachment by Congress for his role in the Watergate scandal, and subsequent events. He was the only US president ever to do so. The film shows real footage of the Nixon family, leaving the White House and boarding a helicopter - the first step in a journey which will take Mr. Nixon into exile.
David Frost, (Michael Sheen), a British celebrity talk show host, watches this event on television and decides that an interview with Nixon would be just the thing to relaunch his waning career. He pursues the project for some time and winds up financing it out of his own pocket, while searching desperately for backers. Creepy literary agent Irving "Swifty" Lazar, (Toby Jones), negotiates the deal. Nixon agrees to do more than 20 hours of on-camera interviews with Frost, and will receive $1 million or more in fees and profits for the sessions. He is in serious debt. He has huge legal bills and back taxes to pay and needs the money. Under the terms of the contract, Nixon will have no control over content of questions or editing, and will not see any of the questions in advance. Of course, he can always refuse to answer questions, but he will have to do so in front of a huge audience.Read more ›
Frost is encouraged by his research aides to go hard after Nixon. But instead Frost throws softballs for the first three interview segments and is easily overwhelmed by his more experienced adversary. Then, on the night before the final interview, Frost receives a strange phone call from Nixon, who basically goes off on a drunken rant. Frost, smelling blood, decides to take a more aggressive approach and on the final day Nixon ends up making humiliating admissions about his role in the Watergate cover-up, perhaps cementing his tarnished legacy in American politics.
How much you enjoy this movie will probably depend on how much interest you have in the subject matter. But there is no doubt that this is one of those rare motion pictures that reaches near perfection in terms of filmmaking. The acting, especially by Langella, is superb and the sense of dramatic timing is impeccable. The small details were also well handled, such as film's spot on depiction of the 70's and Nixon's bizarre fascination with Frost's Italian leather shoes. This is probably the best directorial outing in Ron Howard's career. Highly recommended.
In my opinion, he and the playwright/screenwriter have taken too many creative liberties and muddied the waters here in a way that will raise doubts about the truth and consequences of the actual Frost/Nixon interviews as well as the true character of each man.
For example, in real life, Nixon did NOT call Frost after-hours in his hotel, rambling on in his cups about the way both men rose from humble origins and fought an uphill battle against their social superiors.
This is an important falsehood, because in the movie, Frost attempts to psyche out Nixon before the final Watergate interview by alluding to this phone call. Well, this phone call NEVER happened!
Similarly, as Frost questions Nixon about his illegal incursions into Cambodia during the Vietnam War, the movie shows both men responding to footage of the ensuing carnage. Apparently, the real F/N interview did NOT resort to this ungainly sort of "gotcha" journalism. Again, this is an unfortunate distortion that actually makes the movie viewer feel more sympathy for Nixon, which in reality is unwarranted.
The producers of this DVD could have remedied this confusion by including a second disc containing the entire actual F/N Watergate interview rather than a brief bonus feature with video excerpts from the interview.
Otherwise Frank Langella is superb as Nixon, but I felt that Michael Sheen overplayed his role as Frost. I suspect that Sheen failed to modulate his stage performance for the screen, which could also be Howard's failing, despite his stated ambition to be an "actor's director".Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A fascinating look at the birth of live pundit critiques of political campaigns. Buckley, the father of the conservative movement was a brilliant, eloquent spokesperson for the new... Read morePublished 13 days ago by E. Hall
Great film with a spectacular performance from Frank Langella. Truly a gem of a film.Published 1 month ago by D. Morgan
Never liked Frost at all on TV and Sheen has the same lack of charisma and appeal, just as in The Queen.Published 2 months ago by John T.
Terrific performances bring what ordinarily would not be a dynamic screenplay to life. Film captures historical essence of the events leading to this historic set of interviews. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Mark R. Speck
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