Richard joins CP24 anchor Nathan Downer to have a look at the weekend’s new movies including the return of Newt Scamander in “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald,” the political doings of “The Front Runner” and the arthouse heist of “Widows.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s big releases, the continuing saga of magizoologist Newt Scamander in “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald,” the political intrigue of “The Front Runner” and the arthouse heist of “Widows.”
A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at the heartfelt dramedy “Instant Family,” the heist flick “Widows” and the political scandal of “The Front Runner.”
“The Front Runner” is a story of scandal that destroyed a man’s public life in 1988 that seems almost genteel given the tone of today’s politics. Four years after Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman) lost the Democratic leadership convention to Walter Mondale he entered the presidential race with a giant lead. He was the front-runner. Three weeks later it was over.
By 1988 Gary Hart had served in the United States Senate for thirteen years. A intellectual, he sought to reignite the Democratic party, a group experiencing a slump in popularity and in ideology. His was a campaign of ideas with one of his managers marvelling at the candidate’s gift of untangling the bull**** of politics.” Unlike his opponents, however, he didn’t like to smile for photos like “some sort of game show host.” “If I pose for photos what’s next,” he wonders, “a swimsuit competition?” Discussing his personal life, says one of his aides, is not in his comfort zone and yet it was his personal life that torpedoed his chance at the White House.
His undoing came in the form of Donna Rice (Sara Paxton), a woman who wanted to work on the campaign and ended up in an extra marital affair with Hart, who was then married to Lee (Vera Farmiga). “I wanted to work for Senator Hart,” she says. “I liked his positions.” The press picked up on the story, partially in response to Hart’s dare, “Follow me around. Put a tail on me. You’ll be very bored,” and partially because it dented his family values image.
Despite the media circus that followed Hart refuses to be contrite. “The public won’t care,” he says and “the press will not earn the dignity of my response.” By the time Johnny Carson cracked jokes about it on the Tonight Show the campaign was over.
“The Front Runner” is a straightforward retelling of the twenty-one days leading up to Hart’s withdrawal from the presidential race. What it does best is create the environment surrounding Hart. From the fast-and-furious pace of a campaign in full gallop and the dark humour of a newsroom to the inner-workings of a smear campaign and the anxiety-inducing clickety-click of the still cameras at Hart’s final press conference, the film’s most interesting element is it’s atmosphere. There are some fun performances, particularly from J. K. Simmons as Hart’s blunt talking campaign manager Bill Dixon, but the problem lies with Hart himself. He’s a bit of a cypher, highbrow yet bland; the film never gives us a reason to care about him or the mess he gets himself into.
In its final moments, however, “The Front Runner” finally indulges in some subtext, courtesy of direct quotes from Hart’s withdrawal speech.
“Politics in this country,” he says, “take it from me – is on the verge of becoming another form of athletic competition or sporting match. We all better do something to make this system work or we’re all going to be soon rephrasing Jefferson to say: I tremble for my country when I think we may, in fact, get the kind of leaders we deserve.”
The words are thirty years old and yet sound as though they were written yesterday. Perhaps if director Jason Reitman had followed Hart’s lead and focussed more on the ideas and less on the scandal “The Front Runner” might have had more impact.