COLUMBIA PICTURES (2019)
Director: Jason Reitman
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, J. K. Simmons, Alfred Molina
Politics. The worst game of them all.
In 1988, US Democratic Senator Gary Hart was the front runner for the big job – the Presidency. A politician seemingly cut from a different mould to the rest – someone open, honest, willing to challenge the established system…or so the country thought. Hart’s private life and extramarital affairs with campaign worker Donna Rice unleashed a tornado in the media that eventually brought him down paving the way for George H.W. Bush to become President and help shape the political landscape the world now knows.
It’s an interesting story set in a time when scandal wasn’t necessarily a new thing, but in the world of politics, this kind of scandal wasn’t publically rife. The Miami Herald’s damning story was enough to derail Hart’s surge to the White House and prevent a political direction that could have been so different. With Hugh Jackman and his fabulous mane in the lead role, The Front Runner had star power and star talent to match with a great supporting cast including Vera Farmiga as Hart’s wife Lee, J.K. Simmons, Alfred Molina, and Sara Paxton (as Donna Rice), with Jackman showing again his screen presence and charisma in a solid performance. In fact, solid is the best way I can describe every aspect of The Front Runner. The performances are all solid, the writing, direction, score too – never outstanding, never anything less than good.
Hart, himself, was a prickly and stubborn chap, not willing to believe that gossip could stick and that the power of politics and personality would win through. Reitman allows for this side to shine through but never gives us the impression that Hart is a ‘bad’ man. Judgement isn’t delivered and it’s up to us to measure his actions and the behaviours of the media. There’s a good balance between political posturing, internal struggles, and newsroom chaos – however, the familial aspect isn’t afforded as much time or depth which is a shame as it sidelines Farmiga and Kaitlyn Dever (playing Hart’s daughter Andrea).
On another note, there are some great promotional posters for the movie!
The Front Runner is a perfectly good movie, though there are key aspects missing which really would have helped it further. Some interaction between Hart and Rice? Greater depth to the family angle through the scandal? As examples, these would have added some extra humanity to the movie overall. Gary Hart remains a footnote in US Presidential history, better known now for the scandals that set the path for Bush, Clinton etc. to sit in the Oval Office, however, The Front Runner presents that short period of history with confidence and no shortage of entertainment. Jackman is as handsome as ever with fabulous hair but, whilst good, The Front Runner is more intriguing than vital.
February 4th 2019