“Frost/Nixon” (2008)

Frost/Nixon finally came up in my library queue. My husband G. Grod wasn’t interested; he abhors bio-pics. So I squeezed in viewings here and there. It was mostly well done and engaging. Frank Langella and Michael Sheen reprise the roles they created on stage. Langella does a great job playing an historic figure without simple mimicking Nixon, or resorting to caricature, as would have been easy to do. Sheen is ridiculously likable as lightweight television host David Frost, and given a bit of grounding by his director John Birt, played by Matthew McFadyen in a truly awful blond wig. (NB to MM fans: he goes running butt-naked into the ocean in one scene.) Sam Rockwell and Kevin Bacon are strong in supporting roles.

David Frost: I’ve had an idea for an interview: Richard Nixon.
John Birt: You’re a talk show host. I spent yesterday watching you interview the Bee Gees.
David Frost: Weren’t they terrific?

My one problem is how overly dramatized the film became. There was more than enough to have a quiet, moving film. Instead, there’s a pivotal event near the end, invented for dramatic purpose, which spurs Frost into an utterly predictable montage and through to the easily anticipated end. What elevates the film are the performances and the small details of Nixon’s private life.

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