Day 336 - 12/2/09 - Movie #336
BEFORE: Wrapping up the trilogy of Nixon-related films (since I don't have that movie where Anthony Hopkins played Nixon) - the Frost/Nixon interviews represent another moment in history I know very little about, so I'm hoping for another educational experience.
THE PLOT: A dramatic retelling of the post-Watergate television interviews between British talk-show host David Frost and former president Richard Nixon.
AFTER: My wife jokingly referred to this movie as "Frosty the Nixon" (worst Christmas movie EVER...)
Someone in the film compared the interviews to a boxing match, and that's really a great analogy. Nixon tries to go the distance and wear down Frost with long, rambling answers that eat up time - Frost scored a few jabs in the early rounds, but Nixon controlled the fight's tempo. But Frost's light touch turned out to be part of an unintentional rope-a-dope strategy, and once the subject turned to Watergate on the final day, Frost scored the knockout punch of his career.
Getting Nixon to admit to wrongdoing, and express something close to remorse - that's a career-building moment. The movie has quite an interesting structure, as footage of the preparations for the interview gets interspersed with documentary-style footage of Frost's research team (as played by actors) talking about the experience, in retrospect. It's a clever way to erase the line between fact and fiction, by interviewing fictional characters about real events. And a great way to pad the two-man stage play into a longer narrative film.
Frank Langella, of course, captures Nixon's mannerisms, if not his exact look, and Michael Sheen plays the smarmy-and-then-serious Frost. Also starring Oliver Platt (making his third appearance in my political chain - was this some kind of community service or something?) and the always-great Sam Rockwell, plus Kevin Bacon as Nixon's chief of staff, and Toby Jones (who I was mixing up with a "Top Chef" judge named Toby Young...) as Swifty Lazar.
RATING: 7 out of 10 cheeseburgers