By Adam Frazier
“I’m saying, that when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”
Those searching for the relevance in Ron Howard’s latest film, “Frost/Nixon,” need look no further. Those fateful words, delivered by former president Richard Nixon in a series of post-Watergate television interviews with British talk show host David Frost, carry just as much weight in today’s political climate as they did in the late â€˜70s.
During the Watergate scandal, Nixon’s approval rating fell to a disastrous 23%, just a mere percentage point away from being tied with president Harry S. Truman for the lowest in our nation’s history. With president George W. Bush’s approval rating in steady decline, recently hitting 25%, due to a drawn out war and a failing economy, it seems that history does in fact repeat itself.
“Frost/Nixon” is the big-screen film adaptation of British screenwriter and playwright Peter Morgan’s 2006 Tony award-winning play. Morgan, whose writing credits include “The Queen” and “The Last King of Scotland,” also penned the film adaptation’s screenplay.
The film, a dramatic retelling of those post-Watergate television interviews between David Frost and president Nixon, stars Michael Sheen as Frost and Frank Langella as Nixon- roles both actors should feel quite comfortable in after performing them hundreds of times on stage.
“Frost / Nixon” boils down to a battle of wits between two unlikely adversaries. Why would former president Richard Nixon agree to do an interview with a British talk show host of all people? The same reason anyone does anything. Money. The drama heightens as David Frost hires a team of investigators and reporters to get down to the nitty-gritty of the Watergate scandal. Meanwhile, the season political veteran Nixon prepares for any and every question that can be thrown at him.
Though Frank Langella doesn’t really resemble Nixon that much, he completely embodies the character in a way that makes you begin seeing the former president instead of Langella. He disappears into the role in such an elegant, surreal way – certainly one of the best portrayals of a president in cinema.
In the blue corner, Michael Sheen’s Frost is equally as impressive. Sheen, like his counterpart Langella, melts away and all that is left is the character. Obviously these two are as comfortable in their roles as Frost is in a pair of Italian loafers – but supporting actors like Sam Rockwell, Kevin Bacon and Oliver Platt also step up to the plate and deliver excellent performances that further flesh out the tone and texture of the â€˜70s America political climate.
“Frost / Nixon” is Ron Howard’s best film. That’s my opinion. That’s my critique. Peter Morgan’s excellent play has made a wonderful transition to the big screen – a rare feat in its own right. On top of that, add award-worthy performances and a gripping, drama doused story, and you’ve got one of the best films of 2008.