The Front Runner review - Political drama misses the mark
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The Front Runner is a finely acted, but muddled political drama based on a true story. Hugh Jackman stars as Gary Hart, an American democratic senator, whose 1988 presidential campaign was derailed by accusations of an extra-marital affair. It's difficult to shake the feeling that The Front Runner frames Gary Hart's fall from grace as some kind of turning point in the history of political journalism and news media - a line that was crossed for the worse, blurring the line between serious reporting and tabloid gossiping. The ideal, hard-working, straight-laced candidate whose success is undermined not so much by a personal failing, but by the ravenous press all too eager to dig into his personal life. I'm not sure where I stand on the issue, but I do believe that Gary Hart's story doesn't lend itself well to this particular interpretation. It puts him on a pedestal that feels undeserved. The famiilar trope of the weary old guard of journalism shows up well. You know the one. Veteran reporters and editors forced to write and/or publish stories not because they want to, or believe in them, but because they need to sell papers - because that's just what the world is like now. Yet here, it doesn't quite sit right. At one point, a newspaperman played by Alfred Molina mentions how back in the day they used to turn a blind eye to the extra-marital affairs of politicians and even presidents. I think it's meant to be a fond look at a simpler time, at 'the good old days', and that's just weird. The Front Runner's biggest problem is that it either doesn't know what to say about the collapse of Gary Hart's campaign or doesn't know how to say it. While that alone is a great, big stinking problem that's very hard to overlook, it doesn't mean that the movie is a complete failure. Hugh Jackman plays Gary with both charisma and tight-lipped intensity, and Vera Fermiga shines as his wife Oletha 'Lee' Hart.
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