If you like films about political scandals but with the intensity swapped out for a lighter approach then you will probably like The Frontrunner.
- Screenplay by Matt Bai (Feature Debut), Jay Carson (Feature Debut) and Jason Reitman (Up in the Air)
- Directed by Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air)
- Starring Hugh Jackman (Logan, Prisoners), Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring Franchise, The Commuter) and JK Simmons (La La Land, Whiplash)
- Budget of $TBC
Initial Thoughts 💭
This is not the first film about a political scandal and it certainty won’t be the last (sadly most of these films are based on true events and occur quite often….worrying). The Frontrunner comes across as easy and enjoyable viewing, andthe themes and messages are still as relevant today as they were 30 years ago in 1988.
The ‘ccc’ review💭
Democratic candidate Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman) was leading the polls in the run up to the 1988 Presidential elections. America loved him, yet within three weeks of having his extramarital affairs exposed, the American dream came to an abrupt end for Hart. The film centers on this specific period of time and shows how someone’s actions and inability to recognise how significant they were, can have much wider ramifications than one might come to expect.
More and more films nowadays are not holding back when ensuring the overriding message is overtly obvious. The Frontrunner is no different, a tale about whether the media have the authority to intrude on someone’s private life (they would say they need to report the news), if someone’s actions impacts their morality, judgement and own ability to lead, and the further damage you do to people close to you and the respect you have for people in general.
This was our first film that we watched at the BFI London Film Festival 2018. Before the film started, the director, Jason Reitman, came out and made two important points. Firstly, Hugh Jackman was planning to come but his plane was grounded in New York because of Hurricane Michael. Devastated. Secondly, the film wasn’t a biopic, but about a moment in history. Interesting. During the course of the film we see a politician, the Frontrunner, go from a confident and respected man to someone who can’t face up to the facts. But we see the impact it has on the people directly around him all whilst the campaign is being derailed.
As well as asking the question what is right or wrong, this a very good film. It is not as intense as other political stories and the dialogue is not as snappy as a Sorkin script, but the final product produced a very enjoyable film. You know when you enjoyed the story when you start googling what happened to Gary Hart after.
Even though Hugh Jackman clearly has star billing in this film, there is actually less screen time than you would expect. Jackman portrayal of Hart is spot on of a man who feels that the lines between his public and private life shouldn’t be blurred and completely oblivious to the damage he is causing. But JK Simmons is great as usual with his sharp one-liner and you can actually see him as being a great campaign manager in real life. Steve Zissis and Mamadou Athie (who play the respective reporters) really gave us the feeling that they are torn about reporting the news and holding Gary Hart accountable knowing full well it will have huge ramifications in the presidential race. Hart’s campaign team are willing to go great lengths in protecting Hart but know it is a slippery slope. However maybe given the subject matter, Hart’s wife played by Farmiga was underused.
Final Thoughts 💭
The Frontrunner may not be a frontrunner come Oscar night but this is a strong showing from Jason Reitman and his great cast. It is a multi-layered film and you get a good insight into a significant number of characters, albeit not very deep. Sure everyone would like to think that the media shouldn’t have such great influence, but ultimately the public love these stories – scandals sell papers.
A well-paced film that will have you thinking in parts and on the whole will leave you very satisfied.