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Directed by Ron Howard.
Written by Peter Morgan, based on his stage play.
Starring Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Matthew Macfadyen and Kevin Bacon.
Release Year:  2008
Review Date:  12/30/08


For my last film of the year, I had to make sure I took in the film adaptation of Peter Morgan's play "Frost/Nixon"...and, thanks to Ron Howard and Frank Langella, the film scores big in my book (and from the looks of it, the scores of many, many other books, too).

The film is a retelling of the period between President Nixon's last day in office in 1974 and his 1977 televised interviews on his presidency with British talk show host David Frost.  Nixon (Langella, who won the Tony for this work last year) is shown to be a sort of tragic hero in this story; he leaves office without an apology, continues to be the kind of guy who shouldn't be likable in today's world as a slightly racist, slight homophobic, very greedy former president, and looks upon his days in office like he was the one in the right about most everything.

Frost (Michael Sheen, from "The Queen") is a young British playboy enjoying fame and success as a talk show host working on shows on three continents.  He smiles through almost everything, and when he sees a chance to score an interview with Nixon in 1975, he goes so far in trying to get the interview that he offers Nixon $600,000 for the opportunity and begins to bankroll the $2 million project out of his own pocket while trying to score investors for the syndicated multi-hour talk show that will eventually air in '77.  But, when the cameras roll, will Frost step up to ask the tough questions that legitimate newsmen would ask?

Letting Morgan write the movie script was a great idea, as the film feels tight and doesn't give us much in the way of wasted reels, although I'm not sure how much he had to cut from the play to come up with a two-hour movie.  Regardless, "Frost/Nixon" feels like a play, right down to the small number of locations, and I loved that.  As good as Langella is, I really liked the Frost side of the story too, and this is helped along by the casting of Sam Rockwell, Oliver Platt and Matthew Macfadyen as Frost's team of producers & researchers; all are great and add that little extra somethin'-somethin' to a great dramatic film.  (Howard is so great at adding humor to drama; somehow, he does it and his films never lose that dramatic energy that powers the most influential moments of his films.)

"Frost/Nixon" goes beyond even great filmmaking to give us great takeaways from real-life anecdotes; I loved Nixon's take on Frost's European shoes, and I loved how angry the U.S. network men were with the idea that a British guy would be interviewing Nixon.  Now I'm anxious to do a little more research on a period that I am unfamiliar with since I never studied it previously.

A great movie, but I don't know if it was, say, the BEST movie I saw this year...I guess I wouldn't be surprised if it does not get nominated for an Oscar, but this is still great stuff and save for some colorful language near the end, is a great film for the whole family. 

Rating:  Opening Weekend


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09