Published on November 16th, 2018 | by Josh Aja0
The Front Runner
At the end of the 1984 Democratic Primaries a relative unknown Senator from Colorado, Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman), concedes victory to Walter Mondale. But being the runner up to the Democratic Party Presidential nominee catapults Hart to the national stage. Fast forward to 1988 and Hart is the overwhelming front runner to be not only the Democratic nominee but most likely the next President of the United States. He is a progressive and has a knack for explaining politics so that everyone can understand. He’s well spoken, has popular policies, a clear message for the future and is a handsome man to boot. It seems like nothing can stand in his way. That is until three weeks into the primary elections reporters from the Miami Herald, Tom Fiedler (Steve Zissis) and Pete Murphy (Bill Burr), get wind of a story of Hart and a young woman from Miami spending time together at yacht party. Since Hart is very much married to his wife, Lee Hart (Vera Farmiga), they decide to investigate. They find out that the two may be meeting in Washington D.C. at Hart’s townhouse. They follow the young woman, Donna Rice (Sara Paxton), from Miami to D.C. There they take photos of the two together and print a story. The media blitz is on and the story explodes. Hart now faces one of the first personal political scandals. He must try and navigate a new media age to not see his political career slip away.
Even though this is a true story and some of you may already know the facts I will put the disclaimer of spoilers ahead. This is the story of Senator Hart and his fall from grace as a sure fire Presidential Nominee to out of politics in the blink of an eye, in one of the first “tabloid” political scandals. The Jason Reitman (Up in the Air, Thank you for Smoking) directed film focuses heavily on the interaction between politicians and reporters. It shows, and touches on, how this relationship evolves/devolves so quickly. There are plenty of moments that you can tie into today’s media and how maybe this instance influenced how the media reported on the private lives of politicians.
Overall I thought the film was good. I thought that telling the story from the side of the media and the people on the campaign was really interesting. I just thought that it was not overly compelling. You can’t feel bad for Hart because it was his actions and how he handled the situation that led to the eventual result. Also yeah the media maybe went too far at some point but also you could see how the reporters were just trying to do their jobs. The film has a large ensemble cast. J.K Simmons, Molly Ephraim, Chris Coy, Alfred Molina, Kevin Pollak, Mamoudou Athie and the list goes on. They all do okay but really this is all about Jackman. His performance is outstanding. The story did drag a little at points but for a political drama it was not overboard. I think it could have been a little shorter.
To use a real story that had such a media spotlight on it was ambitious and I give the filmmakers credit for that. But you can see some of the limitation on screen. Not really a theater must see but definitely if this is a story you are not familiar with it is worth the watch. Again it draws a lot of parallels and makes a lot of nods to today’s media and political climate.
3 out of 5