The first thing I need to say is that I want this film to win Best Picture tonight. Yep, I said it. I’m from the Bay Area and I’m not rooting for “Milk”—though I’ll still bawl like a baby whenever it wins because it’s so important to us. But where “Milk” gives cinematic chops to a local struggle and a perfectly-timed recent statewide divide, “Frost/Nixon” puts national history on display. It’s immediately important.
My first thought leaving the theater was, “How did we let someone like this take up space in the White House for the last 8 years?” (Hey! There’s that political relevance I was talking about. I hope that Stephen Colbert, our generation’s David Frost, does this interview with Bush in about 15 years and then, at the very least, we have his war crimes captured on film. But I digress.) My second thought was, “Frank Langella seems like a really nice guy.” I’d say Langella got the fleeting evil of Richard Nixon down pat, and most certainly the gruff voice, but other moments of softness redeemed an extremely faulted character, and that’s something the American people can never believe. We know too much about Nixon and we’ve been taught he’s a crook too consistently ever to recategorize him as “sympathetic”—and for that reason, I’d be a little disappointed if Langella won for Best Actor. It was too hard to juxtapose a lifetime of crime onto his un-Nixon-like face.
But the fact that Ron Howard made a potentially yawn-inducing two hours into a suspenseful, riveting film is definitely something to be said. I’ll admit I love a good American History story, but especially as a student, you go to the movies to escape from dense academia, do you not? This movie made me realize that true life is not so distant from entertainment, and truth can be much more intriguing than a fictional slough of interconnected characters. The interplay between these two men was perfectly dynamic and slightly disrespectful, just as I would have imagined it.