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AICN Downunder: Latauro's Frost/Nixon Review!!

As I mentioned in my Australia review, I've been trying to finish this review for about a month. It's not for lack of inspiration or time (well, it is time, actually), but because of how gushing every draft I've written has been. Re-reading my initial thoughts after the screening even had me wondering if I was a plant. So I'll try my best to keep the hyperbole to a minimum, but I make no solid promises...

At a recent press screening, before the film had begun, I was asked by another critic if I'd seen anything really good lately. I had to think carefully. "WITHNAIL AND I," I replied (the Caps being purely formatting, I didn't yell at him). Sadly, the best film I'd seen in recent months had been one made about two decades ago.

The following day, I saw FROST/NIXON.

I'll take this moment to proclaim something utterly unfashionable, but something I stand behind nonetheless: I like Ron Howard.

Not just 'cos I grew up watching a lot of "Happy Days" repeats, not just because he was partly responsible for "Arrested Development", one of the greatest shows of the past decade, and not just because of his brilliant election video.

No, I really like him as a director. It's sometimes a tough case to make given he's the man behind, for instance, A BEAUTIFUL MIND, which I still consider to be the worst ever Best Picture winner (sorry, CRASH -- if it's any consolation, it was tight). And I know WILLOW isn't a big favourite, but I grew up on it, and can -- to my mild shame -- recite pretty much the entire thing. It was the first movie we had on VHS and I love it. But, above all that, the man made APOLLO 13, which I think is one of the greatest examples of making a quality film that still works as a fun popcorn flick. For my money, APOLLO 13 is hard to fault, and for the skill Howard displayed on that film, I always pay attention to what he does.

Thankfully, that attention has paid off. For though it meant suffering through THE DA VINCI CODE -- which I think is a spot-on adaptation, and therefore a rubbish film -- it meant that I was able to give myself over completely to one of the best films of 2008.

FROST/NIXON covers an interview that English television presenter David Frost was able to score with Richard Nixon following his impeachment. I've seen some of Frost's work, I've seen some of the interview, and I've heard him describe what went on behind the scenes, however, I was not in any way an expert on the back story when I went in. Luckily, I didn't need to be.

The film lays out everything you need to know about both Frost and Nixon, without putting the story on hold to do so. Michael Sheen, who seems to have had more success being Tony Blair than Tony Blair has, plays Frost. Ideally, we'll see him get a nomination early next year, as this is a completely flawless performance. Frank Langella took a little longer for me to warm to him; unavoidable, given he looks practically nothing like Nixon. These problems soon give way, as Langella embodies the mannerisms and being of Nixon, and by the time they reached the first interview, I had no problem believing I was, in fact, watching Richard Nixon.

Peter Morgan adapts his own play without a single second of extraneousness, but nor does he rush it. This is a perfectly-balanced script, and although I wasn't particularly fond of THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL, between FROST/NIXON and THE QUEEN, Morgan's name on a movie is now an automatic must-see element for me. Sam Rockwell, Oliver Platt, Kevin Bacon Matthew Macfadyen and Toby Jones are all, unsurprisingly, superb in their roles, but it's Rebecca Hall that stands out. Hall has, from THE PRESTIGE to VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA to FROST/NIXON, established herself as one of the most compelling actresses working. The fact that she plays the only prominent female character in the film certainly helps her to stand out, but she has an indefinable quality that elevates her above most, and I wouldn't complain too loudly if she appeared in every film I saw from this point onwards.

After some of the garbage I've seen recently (MIRRORS, MAX PAYNE, QUARANTINE, etc), it feels fantastic to finally see a film this good. And though the running time is slightly over two hours, it doesn't overstay its welcome. Ron Howard is welcome to churn out Dan Brown rubbish, so long as he makes some more films like this one: brilliant, intelligent, and one of the year's best. See it.

Peace out,


Readers Talkback
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  • Nov. 25, 2008, 10:56 a.m. CST

    I really fancy seeing thisw film.

    by GetEveryone

    Whens the Uk release?

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 10:56 a.m. CST

    me too

    by unkempt_sock

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 10:56 a.m. CST

    actually, google is a much quicker option.

    by GetEveryone

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 10:56 a.m. CST


    by unkempt_sock

    i don't "fancy" anything but i'd like to see it

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 11:10 a.m. CST

    For a review..

    by Aeghast certainly don't say much!

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 11:13 a.m. CST

    Since the actual interviews are coming out

    by skimn

    on DVD any day now, instead of a cross promotional item, why not get that and skip the re-enactment.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 11:57 a.m. CST

    Sounds good and thanks for the Election Video link...

    by Pdorwick

    ...I didn't know it even existed. Hilarious. Oh, Apollo 13 was brilliant.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 12:26 p.m. CST


    by DennisMM

    He was threatened with impeachment. He resigned because he knew he faced impeachment and almost certain conviction. He was not actually impeached. The only two presidents to have been impeached, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, both were acquitted. That's if my memory, deprived of caffeine, is working.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 2:27 p.m. CST

    So right bout beautiful mind and crash

    by Ashen Shugar

    nuff said

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 2:59 p.m. CST

    i'm aprehensive about a movie about an interview

    by chipps

    that i can just go off and watch myself. why is this better than a doco? still it does sound interesting and i'll go and see it. and wasn't mirrors shit. shit i say.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 4:31 p.m. CST

    My roommate is the valet who opens David Frost's limo....

    by IndustryKiller!

    in the trailer. just an odd bit of trivia.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 4:46 p.m. CST


    by tk 421

    You're totally right. I believe that the Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment but Nixon resigned prior to the full House voting on them. I'm looking forward to this movie even though no fan of Ron Howard am I. I remember listening to an interview with Frost on NPR about his Nixon interview and I was completely fascinated. Hopefully, this film will deliver to my expectations.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 5:13 p.m. CST


    by SingingHatchet

    Just kiddin'

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 5:32 p.m. CST

    I missed that short in the election -

    by Archive

    - that's great! Kudos to Ron!

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 7:43 p.m. CST

    Beautiful Mind

    by drewlicious

    I just watched it for the first time in at least three years. It holds up surprisingly well. First, you had two great performances from two terrific leads. Then you had creative direction that gave the audience an idea as to how the mans mind worked. And I wished I didn't anything about the film before it came out because his mental illness would have been a complete shock. The only flaw to that was the device he thought he had in his wrist, that would have been a pretty big tell.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 7:46 p.m. CST

    Yup, on my Must See list...

    by holden_oz

    Very cool Latauro, (where does that name come from, by the way) I'm convinced and pretty much agree with your assesment on everything you've said here RE: Howard. <p> Although, I AM one of the few that didn't see genius in Arrested Development.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 8:05 p.m. CST

    This movie was fantastic...Langella is hard to beat for BA

    by FuckMichaelBay

    Never would have guessed this was an Opie Cunningham film.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 8:39 p.m. CST

    Hey Latauro!

    by Sgt.Steiner

    "They're throwing themselves into the road!" Just saw "Withnail and I" for the first time, yesterday. For the first time in a long time, I had the urge to watch a film again, immediately.

  • Nov. 25, 2008, 8:59 p.m. CST

    Nixon was impeached??!!!

    by JackIsLost

    This is by far the most stunning revelation of this review.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 12:12 a.m. CST

    absolutely right on Apollo 13

    by BadMrWonka

    it's a rare director that can make a film that's so accessible, yet virtually flawless in it's conception. like shawshank and handful of others, it proves that thankfully if you make a film well enough, anyone can enjoy it, even idiots who normally only watch shitty movies.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 12:14 a.m. CST

    oh, and Latauro

    by BadMrWonka

    I really hope you read the talkback for your Australia review. aussies were eviscerating you, and then even more aussies (and one really awesome dude from Seattle) came to your defense, and ACTUALLY GOT A TALKBACKER TO APOLOGIZE AND RECANT HIS STATEMENT.<p>an AICN first, I daresay...

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 12:40 a.m. CST

    For some reason...

    by Happyfat73

    Your review makes me crave a Camberwell carrot.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 6:16 a.m. CST

    Impeach THIS!

    by Latauro

    I've been studiously avoiding my talkbacks for a while now (it helps peace of mind), but my girlfriend told me about the guy who apologised. Not believing her, I eventually skimmed through it until I found it. Unbelievable, huh? (And I'm aware of the irony in talking about not reading talkbacks after replying to one I've clearly read. But this one's short and seems relatively civil, even though I clearly got the Nixon/impeachment thing wrong.)<BR>Steiner: such a great film. I, too, am looking forward to a repeat viewing. <BR> holden_oz: I'll tell the "Latauro" story another time. It's a good one, too.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 8:07 a.m. CST

    After that interview, didn't Frost spend

    by Sammy Jankis

    the rest of his career interviewing a green plant sitting in a corner? REMEMBER SAMMY JANKIS!

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 8:41 a.m. CST

    David Frost

    by Prawnee

    went on to host a crappy quiz show Through The Keyhole.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 9:28 p.m. CST

    I know!

    by BadMrWonka

    it's unheard of to actually recant previous statements and have the ability to admit you were wrong in an AICN talkback. it's like a die landing on it's corner in a craps game.

  • Nov. 27, 2008, 7:05 p.m. CST

    Who cares when Latauro's an idiot?

    by Proman1984

    Why trust someone's review when his tastes suck. And I can prove it. 1. He likes Ron howard as a director. 2. He doesn't like Crash. Both opinions are wrong.