First Hit: Although it had more fantasy drama built into the story than what was true, when it came to the goods of the film (the power of interview itself), it was incredibly strong and an extremely compelling story.
I didn’t get a chance or opportunity to watch the interviews when they were actually aired in 1977 so I was extremely pleased that this story came to the big screen in the capable hands of Director Ron Howard and Producer Brian Grazer.
The beginning of the film initially highlights the well publicized resignation of Richard Nixon but then begins to build the counter story of David Frost as a lighthearted talk show host who has more an eye for women than creating interesting and compelling television shows.
This is where some of the fantasy comes in. Yes, it is true he headed some light weight variety and talk shows but he had also interviewed other heads of state and therefore did have some chops.
But the film focused on his light side more than these other aspects as a way to build tension for the battle royal, sort of speak. Regardless, this view helps the film set up the two combatants who will meet in the ring of the interview.
Supporting the ex-President are strong seasoned intellectuals that are media savvy and strong Nixon loyal pragmatics who believe Nixon can be exonerated and come back into power. Also there is Nixon, and although he may have had lapses of judgment and a staff with devious intentions, he was a smart and driven man.
On the other side of the coin there was Frost and his team of researchers with one focus, to lay open Nixon’s poor judgment and lack of contriteness for his crimes and dishonesty towards the American people. They wanted blood, they wanted a confession.
The battle takes place in a nondescript location but this adds to the story and is wonderfully compelling.
The casting was spot on perfect. Frank Langella performance, as Nixon, could easily get an Oscar nod. Michael Seen as Frost is equally strong. The close up facial expressions of both these men made me fully believe they were the people they were representing. Kevin Bacon as Nixon’s protector Jack Brennan was a perfect fit. In fact everyone cast in this film was wonderful. Ron Howard is skilled at pulling out great performances while staying true to his craft of finding the path in telling a great cohesive story.
Overall: I grew up in this time period, a Vietnam veteran and was directly impacted by Nixon’s decisions. Therefore I felt nothing but anger for this man who lied to us all while being in our country’s highest office. However, this film was so good that I actually gained a level of compassion for Nixon the man, and although compassion doesn’t mean condoning behavior, I saw and felt the difficult life Nixon created for himself.