I love Jason Reitman’s films. Thank you for Smoking, Juno, Young Adult, Tully…all wonderful films. He has continued and returning to a political forum with The Front Runner which lands us in 1988 and the three weeks before the presidential campaign and Gary Hart’s attempt to sit in the white house as the leader of the most powerful nation in the world, replacing actor Ronald Reagan and how very wrong it went.
On the campaign trail in 1988 Gary Ross was the front runner, ahead by 3 points, he was the man to beat, until he wasn’t and it was completely and utterly a destruction that came from him and him only – Gary Ross hit self destruct with his weakness when it came to women.
I watched the film at the IMAX and the opening shot is quite something, reminiscent of Birdman (although less poetic I have to say) the camera swoops and ducks in and out of the mad scrabble of an election newscast until we finally find our main man Ross and settle there. It’s a hell of an opening and Reitman keeps the pace going throughout the film. He plays a lot with sound and various techniques we constantly feel almost voyeuristic and this is a lot of the heart of the movie. What is a reasonable amount of intrusion into politician’s lives? This is a point in time where cameras suddenly were everywhere. There is a great anecdote told by the always brilliant JK SImmins where Ross is having dinner with Warren Beatty and is asking when he can go and be normal if he becomes president, when can he have his privacy; Beatty laughs and says you don’t get it, there isn’t any anymore.
Hugh Jackman is perfect casting to play the handsome and charming politician but is also solid enough in talent and stature to give it some weight. There is a wonderful almost entirely male support cast including the brilliant Alfred Molina and Alex Karpovsky and the girls are there with Vera Farming as the long suffering wife and Molly Ephraim as the staffer who sees cracks in her esteemed leader. Reitman does address the female aspect of thus story albeit subtly. I loved one but where JK Simmons looks at a female and tells her to bring him coffee and Ephraim’s Irene simply says to him ‘she doesn’t do that’
Ultimately it’s a frustrating story of a man who couldn’t keep his dick in his pants long enough to allow himself to be president of the US but Reitman brings up many questions about privacy and the press and the precedent to the hounding celebrities and politicians get today. Is it their obligation for being famous? It’s a shame because Hart would have been great politician, seemingly great morals but as female journalist at the Washington Post puts it when talking about his indiscretions “He is a man with power and opportunity. And that takes responsibility.” Oh Gary, what did you do?