A dramatic retelling of the post-Watergate television interviews between British talk-show host David Frost and former president Richard Nixon.
Ron Howard has never been a director whose work I hold in the highest regard, in fact I can say with some certainty that ‘The Da Vinci Code’ was one of the worst films I have ever seen and it only depresses me that he is making a sequel, ‘Angels and Demons’, in the near future. Frost/ Nixon, however, has a far more interesting topic.
It is based on the ambitions of failing television presenter David Frost (Michael Sheen), now of course Sir David Frost. His career has reached a point where the only work he can get is presenting cheap Australian and British TV shows. When President Nixon (Frank Langella) resigns because of his involvement in the Watergate scandal, though, he instantly sees an opportunity to get his career back on track with an interview that delves into the circumstances of the scandal. Nixon, however, sees a similar opportunity. Desperate to regain favour with the American public and seeing David Frost as a light touch he agrees to the interview.
The first half of the film revolves around the pressures of actually organising the interview in both the Frost and Nixon camps. In this half the character building and scene setting does seem a little forced and the problems that are faced do seem to be exaggerated for the Hollywood audience. We also see the introduction of a love interest in the film, Caroline, whose name I had to look up on the Internet because she is so utterly pointless to any part of the plot or characterisation that she barely appears and when she does you have forgotten who she is, why she’s there and what the bloody hell she’s doing in the film. Come to think of it I still have no idea what role her character played.
The film really comes to life as the interview begins though. The acting performance from Frank Langella is outstanding and Richard Bacon, who plays Nixon’s sycophantic sidekick, also deserves a mention for his strong performance. Unfortunately, we don’t really see the best of Michael Sheen until the last forty-five minutes of the film where he transforms from an everyday television presenter into a much sterner political interviewer. The final moments of the interview are a delight to behold if you enjoy powerful performances.
The film, however, does have one very large problem and that is the fact that from nearly beginning to end Nixon is painted as the victim, a character to be sympathised with. Frost on the other hand, who in my opinion should be the hero of the piece, is consistently viewed as a foolish, naïve playboy who doesn’t know what he’s doing.
This film was originally a play and I get the feeling that it may have been better in that format. The dialogue throughout the film is wonderful and some of the conversations between Frost and Nixon before, during and after the interview are a delight to watch. This is certainly the best piece of work I have seen by Ron Howard but it still lacks the originality that would turn this from a good film into a great one.