Sunday, December 14, 2008


After the snoozefest that was Oliver Stone's W., I wasn't sure what to expect from Frost/Nixon. Sure it had gotten lots of love from the critics and boasted Michael Sheen--who has twice wowed as with his uncanny Tony Blair impressions--playing David Frost. But could Ron Howard turn a dialogue-heavy stage play about politics into a compelling movie?

You betcha.

Personally, I think Ron Howard is an incredibly under-rated director. Sure, he's been associated with some losers like The Da Vinci Code (well, the film version was a loser for me although its earnings of over $200 million domestically is nothing to sneeze at...), but also with gems like Willow (remember when Val Kilmer was HOT? Now he looks like the guy who ate Val Kilmer...), Parenthood, Apollo 13 (which deserved an Oscar in my opinion) and The Missing.

As with all Ron Howard films, you get the obligatory Clint Howard appearance--but I find that more endearing than annoying. The rest of the cast is pitch perfect--from Toby Jones as agent Swifty Lazar to Patty McCormack as the fragile Pat Nixon. Kevin Bacon proves once again why he is such a stalwart to have inspired the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game (I believe we're down to three degrees by now...) and Sam Rockwell is super as well.

But the movie belongs to Michael Sheen and Frank Langella who embody the title roles with such confidence and finesse. Sheen's portrayal of Frost is subtly layered and gives depth and intrigue to what could have been glossed over with facile charm and wit. I wavered with Langella--who captured the voice and mannerisms of the disgraced ex-president and managed to convey both arrogance and humanity. But by the end of the film he had so disappeared into the persona, I was completely won over.

The film manages to be humorous, topical and a cat-and-mouse thriller. No doubt Howard, a bit of an underdog when it comes to respect and appreciation, could identify with Frost's quest to be taken more seriously than just a "talk show host." And in the same way that the Frost/Nixon interviews helped legitimize David Frost as an interviewer, Frost/Nixon should do the same for the under appreciated Ron Howard.


  1. I saw this on Broadway and I was actually a little underwhelmed by it. There's a bit of tinkering with the facts and it simply wasn't as rich as "The Queen."

    But Michael Sheen was great. And I think the interview sessions were the most fascinating. And I am looking forward to the movie.

    I think his Frost was more of a revelation because I knew less about him. Just watching his body language as he's sitting in his chair listening to Nixon was terrific. I agree with the cat and mouse aspect. I've heard it described as a boxing match, too. Each one needs the other to try and rehabilitate his career. Frost needs to get Nixon to say something about Watergate and Nixon wants to avoid saying anything.

  2. I think you'll enjoy the film version. It opens up the story in a way the stage version would be unable to. Plus, the crux of this "boxing match" is the TV close-up. Easy to show via film, impossible to depict on stage.