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Movie Review: Frost/Nixon A Shrewd Mix of Comedy and Politics

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Director Ron Howard has once again proven his mettle with his latest Academy-nominated effort, Frost/Nixon. Based on the London and Broadway plays of the same name, Michael Sheen (The Queen) and Frank Langella (Dave) reprise their roles as David Frost and Richard M. Nixon.

While not as seriously dramatic as Oliver Stone's Nixon, the film is a great and successful attempt at educating and entertaining audiences on a particular piece of celluloid history that has become the stuff of legend for political junkies, the infamous Nixon interviews that took place in 1977. Michael Sheen plays David Frost as the talk show/television host who yearns for more credibility and fame, and Frank Langella gives a powerhouse performance as the disgraced President Nixon who, well, wants his credibility and fame restored.

It is the comedy of it all that makes the film work. Witness the film's first hour or so and you will find that the film does not attempt to be serious political drama but rather a behind-the-scenes look at how Frost tries to set up an interview with Nixon. A passionate James Reston, Jr. played by Sam Rockwell, livens up the comedy even more. Kevin Bacon surprisingly brings in a watered down performance as Nixon's chief of staff Jack Brennan as he doesn't really bring anything refreshing to the film.

The film notably highlights Richard Nixon's political skill and the ethics of checkbook journalism. Small details such as several surprised looks on Frost’s face and the irresistible personal charm of Frank Langella's Nixon are exploded onto the screen with such vividness that I could not help but laugh at it all. Whether this is intended or not, these help propel the film from a mere political film to something really worth watching. I haven't seen the play but I think that Ron Howard has been successful in this transposition from stage to screen.

The youth of today are encouraged to see this film to get a glimpse of how it was back then before reality TV and how deeply America was scarred by the only resignation of a President in office. Hopefully one day, Bill Clinton's scandals can be rightfully made into a film in the same vein.

A word of caution however — all must be taken in context. David Frost went on to become somewhat of a more serious journalist, finally earning a knighthood, and Richard M. Nixon became a somewhat respected elder statesman in his later years before finally passing away in 1994.

Finally, Frank Langella's performance as Nixon rightfully deserves its Oscar nomination. He doesn't look anything like Nixon, but by the end of this highly entertaining movie, you are convinced. Anything but boring, this movie is a must see.

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About Clarence Yu