FRONT RUNNER, THE
(director/writer: Jason Reitman; screenwriters: Jay Carson/Matt Bai/based on the book “All the Truth Is Out,” by Matt Bai; cinematographer: Eric Steelberg; editor: Stefan Grube; music: Rob Simonsen; cast: Hugh Jackman (Gary Hart), Sara Paxton (Donna Rice), Alfred Molina (Ben Bradlee), Steve Zissus (Tom Fielder), Mamoudou Athie (A.J. Parker), Vera Farmiga (Lee Hart), J.K. Simmons (Bill Dixon), Josh Brener (Doug Wilson), Chris Coy (Kevin Sweeney); Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Jason Reitman, Helen Estabrook, Aaron L. Gilbert; Columbia Pictures; 2018)
“A glib political drama.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A glib political drama directed and written by Jason Reitman (“Juno”/”Up in the Air”). It’s based on the book by political reporter Matt Bai called “All the Truth Is Out.” The co-writers with Reitman are the author Bai and Jay Carson, a former political consultant.
The ambitious film tells the media driven story in 1988 when the married Democrat senator for Colorado Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman) was the front runner for his party’s nomination for president but his affair with the model Donna Rice (Sara Paxton) became public knowledge and the press had a field day with this story. Photos emerged of Hart in a compromising position with Rice on a yacht called Monkey Business appeared in the tabloids, and the arrogant Hart had to answer questions about adultery as the story swept the country. The scandalized senator was forced to withdraw from his run to succeed President Reagan and the Republican George H. Bush succeeded him.
The film saves its ammo for the media, railing on how they destroyed Hart. It shows one reporter Tom Fielder (Steve Zissis) from the Miami Herald who broke the story by staking Hart out and that he became known for “gotcha” journalism, while the Washington Post journalist A.J. Parker (Mamoudou Athie) was classier and kept the story under wraps until it couldn’t be ignored anymore.
The film tells what happens in an era when sex mixes with politics, but it leaves out too much relevant info to make this an essential watch (like failing to explore the possibility that the Republican operatives actually set Hart up with the affair).
Following Robert Altman’s style of overlapping stories, the film is all over the map filming different stories at the same time.
Vera Farmiga as Hart’s wife and J.K. Simmons as his caught off guard by the affair campaign manager are fine in their roles. But Jackman, dressed in a Hart-like brown hairpiece, is miscast; he just doesn’t remind one of Hart.
Though the film might be good at bringing up political points about sex and politics to discuss at a pub for a chat, as a film it was inert.
REVIEWED ON 11/16/2018 GRADE: C+