Plot: The true story behind British talk show host David Frostís (Michael Sheen) legendary series of post- Watergate interviews with disgraced former president Richard Nixon (Frank Langella).
Review: Upon reading the Oscar nominations, I was surprised to discover that FROST/NIXON had racked up five Oscar nominations, including nods for acting (Langella), directing & best picture. While FROST/NIXON is a solid directorial effort from Ron Howard, itís far from a great film, which I thought was the general consensus reached by most, as it opened to rather tepid reviews a month ago. It boggles my mind that the Academy nominated this over IN BRUGES & THE WRESTLER (not to mention THE DARK KNIGHT!).
The big problem with FROST/NIXON is the fact that itís not very cinematic. Itís based on a play by Peter Morgan (who also got a nod for best adapted screenplay). While Iíve no doubt that the play is terrific, it makes for a somewhat pedestrian film. Ron Howard has pretty much just filmed the play, and thereís really not much in the way of directorial razzle dazzle on display here. In order to translate the play to film, Howard resorts to the tired flash-forward, talking heads framing device thatís been done to death in films like this. In many ways, FROST/NIXON seems more like an above average HBO telefilm, than an actual feature.
Still, FROST/NIXON is far from a bad film. I actually found it fairly fascinating, as the story is still pretty interesting. In many ways, David Frost vs. Richard Nixon was a true David & Goliath story. Before the interviews, everyone assumed that Frost, who was then known as a cheesy TV presenter, would just lobby a bunch of softball questions at Nixon, who in turn would pocket $600,000 for his trouble. Having Frost interview Nixon, would be like having Ryan Seacrest interview George W. Bush. Everyone underestimated Frost, including Nixon- with nobody realizing that Frost more or less bankrupted himself to produce the specials, and had no intention of letting the disgraced former president get off easy.
Probably the most noteworthy thing about the film is the acting from Langella & Sheen. While Langella doesnít really resemble Nixon, heís nonetheless excellent in the role, and he captures the man better than Anthony Hopkins did in NIXON (although NIXON is a far superior film). For his part, Michael Sheen is excellent as Frost, although his role is slightly less showy than Langellaís. Solid work from the both of them, and Langella truly deserves his nomination.
The supporting cast is also top notch, with Sam Rockwell, Matthew Macfadyen, Kevin Bacon, and the always awesome Oliver Platt each bringing their A-game to the film.
Still- the fact remains that FROST/NIXON should not have been nominated for best picture. While itís solid, itís also far from excellent. Itís a fairly run of the mill film, and certainly not worth of any Oscars.