Saturday, November 28, 2009

Frost/Nixon

Frost/Nixon starring Michael Sheen and Frank Langella, written by Peter Morgan, based on his play, directed by Ron Howard (2008): Neither Sheen, who plays TV personality David Frost, nor Langella, who plays Richard Nixon, look much like their real-world counterparts. In a way, this helps the movie, as we're not stuck comparing faces and mannerisms. The movie -- originally an award-winning play starring the same two actors -- follows the making of the Frost/Nixon television interviews of 1977 from first inspiration to ratings success.

Solid writing that never really does more than skate along the surface is aided immensely by Sheen and Langella's nuanced performances. Langella is especially good in delivering a portrait of an immensely flawed but strangely sympathetic Nixon who, in the movie's conception, has been left alone and brooding by his resignation from the Presidency, realizing that his ego-fulfilling public life is now over. Ron Howard doesn't screw things up, which is a triumph for the Howard school of blatantly telegraphed film-making, though there's some business with Italian shoes that I think we're supposed to view as metaphorically profound. Whatever. Like last year's Doubt, this is a movie carried pretty much entirely by acting and, to a lesser extent, writing, and the acting is dandy.

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