I would have definitely liked it more if they interviewed the Nixon from Futurama.
This is a period piece, that centers on little-known talk show host David Frost (Michael Sheen), who goes way out of his way to interview probably one of the most controversial and famous presidents of all-time, Richard Nixon (Frank Langella). This is the story of how those interviews went.
I really didn’t know too much about the Frost/Nixon interviews other than the fact that they both were interviews between two dudes. Goes to show you how much I paid attention in history class after all. Surprisingly though, this is not a history lesson and more of a film about the two dudes who were in these famous series of interviews together.
Director Ron Howard really gives it his all with this film because of the way he makes these interviews seem less like actual interviews and more like a boxing match of words between two famous figures. Howard keeps the tension building up and up on these interviews and gives us enough character development to realize just how much both of these people need these interviews. One for fame, the other for forgiveness and setting the record straight.
Another great element to this film that makes it so damn watchable is that it’s script is very very good with a lot intelligence, wit, and small doses of humor to keep us laughing and entertained. It’s basically a “talking heads” film where you just watch a whole bunch of people talk without anything really happening, but it’s a very fun one that relies solely on the fact that it can keep people glued into what Frost is going to ask, and what Nixon is going answer with. I never actually saw the play that this is based off of but apparently everything is taken verbatim which makes the transition from stage to screen even better.
The problem with this film that keeps it away from being anything perfect or amazing like it could have easily been is that I feel like Howard could have really went out-of-bounds with this film. Granted, this is a very small film where there isn’t really a lot happening other than these two guys talking but I feel like there could have been more of how the nation felt about these interviews, and more about other characters that are just sort of there.
I also never understood why Howard have the actors who portrayed these actual people, come off and randomly narrate what was happening and why. I feel like the film is trying to give a sort of documentary feel when in reality it could have just stayed away from that or even used the real-life people itself. We all know who the actors are and who the real people are, so there’s no need to trying to show us otherwise.
Michael Sheen is a lot of fun to watch as David Frost because this guy is sometimes at the lowest points of his life, but no matter what keeps a big olde smile on his face. Sheen reminds me of that very cheeky, very corny, but always funny British guy that always seems to think he’s better than everybody, and usually is depending on who you are talking. However, this film really does belong to the one and only Frank Langella as Richard Nixon.
Even though he doesn’t look like Nixon, Langella probably does the best performance/impersonation of the man that any other actor has ever done in their whole lives. Yes, Anthony Hopkins has played Nixon too, Langella is THAT GOOD. You notice the physical differences within the first 5 minutes but then you totally got lost in this guy because he really just sells this whole conflicted, and tormented soul that knows what he did was wrong but he can’t get past it with everyone around him always breathing down his neck. There is some pretty wild stuff that Langella does as Nixon, such as losing his temper like a 7 year-old would do if his mommy didn’t buy him ice cream, but it’s totally easy to see why Langella got nominated for an Oscar and hopefully he keeps on getting better roles from now on.
Consensus: Though it doesn’t achieve greatness, Frost/Nixon is still a great flick with two great performances, a clever script, and a direction from Howard that keeps this film tense and on its toes.
This was my second favorite film from 2008 I would say. I definitely liked Slumdog Millionaire better, but this one was really interesting to me. Some of the other award season favorites were incredibly lackluster from that year I thought i.e. Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Reader (Terrible!) – but I usually can’t stand anything by Stephen Daldry. I did, however, really like Revolutionary Road, and still think Kate Winslett should have won for it rather than The Reader.
2008 was a good year for flicks I thought, but then of course, there were some pretty shitty ones. Thanks!
I couldn’t agree more with your review. I would only add that I wish I had gotten to know a bit more about Frost. I feel we get a lot more from Langella’s Nixon, and it was an interview TO him, but there were plenty of times in which there was a role reversal and Frost had all the pressure on his shoulders to deliver a memorable interview, often times turning into the interviewee.
It’s a shame that Frank Langella did not win the Oscar, but then again, the 2009 ceremony had very strong contenders like Mickey Rourke and Sean Penn, who was the eventual winner on the night.
I think that the Oscar should have went to Rourke but then again, there are a lot of others who think differently. Thanks Niels!
I have to disagree with you. You are right in that the documentary feel didn’t work, mostly because it was so sporadic. I wasn’t that big of a fan of Langella’s performance. You called it /performance/impersonation. The problem was that it was for on the right side of that slash than the left. I also found the script to be manipulative, like trying desperately to humanize Nixon with his little anecdotes.
I see what you’re saying but for some reason, it worked for me, especially Langella’s performance. Thanks man!
Agreed that an interview with Nixon from Futurama would be more entertaining. I feel like I did pay attention in history, but I must have been asleep when they talked about these interviews. I do like Michael Sheen quite a bit as an actor, so I’ll have to add this to my list to see.
Definitely check it out Evan!
As I was reading I felt like I liked the film more than you, but then the final rating was a surprise and would have been about what I would have given it. I completely agree that Langella gives a terrific performance. It is made even better by the fact that everybody and their brother was doing a Nixon impression in the 70s and 80 (sort of like how everybody does Christopher Walken now). Having to remove decades of that crap from his head and give a real performance, not an impression of Nixon is what made the performance truly great.
Definitely! Langella is great and this film definitely helps him out as well. Thanks Chip!
I love this film. I knew of David Frost – every Sunday lunch time my dad would be watching one of his political shows. He’s a “big deal” over here. Though I never knew of his career before he got into politics. I was really surprised actually. To see where his career went after this pivotal point in both the mens’ lives.
Michael Sheen was amazing… I don’t think I’ve been wowed by him in anything else he’s done so far. That’s not to say he’s not an excellent actor, I just think he really knocked it out of the park here.
I think he’s pretty good here but it’s definitely Langella who takes this flick by storm. Thanks Jaina!
Wow! I can’t believe that you loved this movie. I thought it was boring as hell. I didn’t care about this infamous interview. I thought 2008 was a shitty year in movies. this was a prime example.
It seems unfair for me to say Michael Sheen is good at impressions but he really is. I think the fact he marries that with such strong performances is what sets him apart. Great review Dan.