Hugh Jackman as a candidate for President. I take that a hell of a lot more seriously than Trump. But he only gets my vote if he comes back for a Wolverine versus Deadpool movie. Make it a short, or something. Who gives a shit?
The story is about Gary Hart when he was in the running for being President, but got hit with controversy that ultimately lost him the election.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Hugh Jackman (GREATEST SHOWMAN , EDDIE THE EAGLE , X-MEN , 2 , LAST STAND , FIRST CLASS , and DAYS OF FUTURE PAST , and upcoming films BROADWAY 4D  and MISSING LINK ), J.K. Simmons (FATHER FIGURES , ZOOTOPIA , TERMINATOR GENISYS , and upcoming films LIFE SUPPORT  and 17 BRIDGES ), Vera Farmiga (THE COMMUTER , THE CONJURING  and 2 , and upcoming films CAPTIVE STATE  and GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS ), Kaitlyn Dever (BEAUTIFUL BOY , DETROIT , and upcoming films THEM THAT FOLLOW  and BOOKSMART ), and Sara Paxton (SHARK NIGHT 3D  and AQUAMARINE ).
In support, we have Alfred Molina (WTF , and upcoming films RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET  and THE DEVIL HAS A NAME ), Kevin Pollack (WAR DOGS , and upcoming films TEACHER  and APPARITION ), and Mike Judge (EXTRACT  and KING OF THE HILL [1997 – 2010]).
Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing, we have Jason Reitman, known for TULLY (2018). Reitman’s partners-in-pen are Jay Carson and writer of the book the movie is based on, Matt Bai, both making their screenplay debuts. Congrats, gentlemen. Composing the score is Rob Simonsen, known for TULLY, GIFTED (2017), NERVE (2016), BURNT (2015), and upcoming films CAPTIVE STATE. The cinematographer is Eric Steelberg, known for TULLY and BAYWATCH (2017). Finally, the editor is Stefan Grube, known for TULLY, 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (2016), and the upcoming STAR WARS EPISODE IX (2019).
I’ve already seen the flick, so let’s get to it.
This is my honest opinion of: THE FRONT RUNNER
Set in 1988, Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman) is the front runner as the next President of the United States. However, he is notoriously private about his personal life and Gary’s peers and publicists pressure him into revealing more about himself to the public. However, after a particularly intrusive set of questioning, he inadvertently challenges the press to follow him around, believing that they won’t find anything interesting. However, it turns out that this was a mistake as it’s discovered that he’s spent time with a young and beautiful woman named Donna Rice (Sara Paxton) and the story blows up across the world, and becomes a struggle to remind people that Gary’s personal life isn’t anyone’e business.
Damn, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen this, but at a quick emotional response, I think I remember it being pretty… meh. Kinda boring, but not completely. Lucky me, I have my notes to remind me.
But before I go into those, I’m going to say that as per usual, Jackman delivers a great performance. Political dramas aren’t usually my forte, as it’s hard to care about politicians and think of them as people. As the saying goes, “those with power seek to use it,” and not often do politicians use their power for the greater good, rather to further their publicity, get more power, or wealth. So when you make movies about them, it’s hard to take anything that you see as fact. With that said, Jackman still does a good job. Hart as portrayed on screen, is a nice dude, loving husband and father, but a stickler for his privacy, not entirely wishing to share it with the world. I kind of enjoy how he wants to be seen as a professional and is primarily focused on running the country. But he’s constantly faced with his campaign team that wants him to reveal his personal life to make him seem more like a regular person. So there is some consistent butting of heads and I really like these moments where Gary is trying to remind everyone that he wants to be the next President, not be a man known for cheating on his wife. This actually makes for one of the better elements of the film in how genuine Jackman comes across as.
But if Jackman is the dramatic center, then J.K. Simmons as Bill Dixon is the comedic center. Simmons may deliver his own brand of intensity to the movie, but he’s got some hilarious lines in this movie. Like, he comments that half of Hart’s popularity is his hair and his approval ratings go up six points if it’s windy. I admit, that still have me laughing. Hell, I have to admit, even Sara Paxton as Donna Rice did a pretty good job. I mean, granted, all she really had to do was look pretty and look sad for much of her performance, but having said that, there is an impact that she leaves. Almost as if you don’t actually know if she was being a floozy and have an affair with a Presidential candidate, or if she genuinely is smarter than she appears to be and was simply trying to be a part of his publicity team. I have to admit, I really liked how she sold it, that she’s tired of being seen as only a pretty face and not actually a smart woman. Good on Paxton for that. Too bad her career has never been like this that challenged her in a creative way.
But as to be expected, I can’t only say nice things.
Just because Jackman was pretty good in the movie, that doesn’t mean perspective never shifts from him. As a result, when we’re not focusing on Gary, we’re focusing on his team, the press, and it’s all a bunch of boring political talk that I couldn’t care less about. To make matters worse, you could probably guess how this movie will go without knowing anything. If I said “it’s about a good politician” well, the first thing you’d do would be to laugh, and then you’d guess, “but he gets caught doing something wrong.” No duh, politics isn’t about pretty unicorns and happy little elves making presents for boys and girls, even the good politicians are douche bags and sleazes. You know that he’s going to be caught doing something wrong.
I already went off on how good both Jackman and Paxton were, and they are if you look at the performances themselves. I even praised their characters. However, there’s one aspect that I didn’t touch upon and it’s how disconnected their characters felt from their actions. Here’s what I mean. Gary is introduced and toted around like he’s this stand-up guy who only wants to do right by the country that he wants to be President of. He has a happy marriage, basically a great guy in general. Donna is later revealed to be this woman who only wanted to be part of a good team, is smart, and also a generally nice person as well. So with this in mind… why did these two have an affair? If Donna is as smart as she says, she should have known that Gary was married with a daughter that’s barely older than her. For fairness sake, why did Gary cheat on Lee (Vera Farmiga)? There doesn’t seem to be any real reason for them to do this. If Gary’s marriage was getting rocky, they had fights due to the long distances apart, show that he’s always been a magnet for younger women, something to indicate that this affair seems plausible. Someone has to be shown to be dumber than has been portrayed. But nope, all we get is, “Gary was a nice guy, but he cheated on his wife. No reason.” That’s really lame.
If I could change anything, I would have this movie be less about the history of Hart’s attempt at the Presidency and the affair, as anyone can simply use Wikipedia and look that shit up for themselves. The movie would likely provide even less accurate information than what you could read. What you wouldn’t be able to get from there is a character study in why Hart cheated. Were there marital problems? Was Hart something of a skirt-chaser? Did he have affairs prior to Rice? What drove him to do something this stupid when the Presidency was practically gift-wrapped for him? The movie should have focused on that than the facts that any schmuck can do a Google search for.
Overall, this movie was likely better than I thought it was going to be, but that’s a pretty thin compliment. Far too much of this movie is political talking, which is unbearably boring and droll. In a way, this movie seemed like it was almost too easy to make. Just yank some facts out and throw in talent to sell it and not try and put in actual emotions to make it actual compelling storytelling. With that said, the talent they roped in was pretty good and elevated the picture the best they could. But it doesn’t make up for the boring stuff. As a recommendation, viewer beware. If political talking is what gets your blood racing, then boy howdy are you in for a treat. But if you want something better than just a political drama, then save this for a rental. But you could miss this entirely and not miss anything.
My honest rating for THE FRONT RUNNER: 3/5
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