Title – The Front Runner (2018)
Director – Jason Reitman (Juno)
Cast – Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, J.K Simmons, Alfred Molina, Kaitlyn Dever, Chris Coy
Plot – The true story of U.S Senator and potential presidential candidate Gary Hart (Jackman), whose presidential bid was derailed in 1987 by public and drama filled media reports of his extramarital affairs.
“This campaign is about the future”
Review by Eddie on 25/07/2019
There’s a lot to like about The Front Runner, an intriguing examination of the last few weeks of the political career of one time US presidential candidate Gary Hart, as it features one of Hugh Jackman’s best high-profile turns as the under the pump Hart and also asks questions regarding our treatment of politicians, the problem is many questions remain unanswered in what feels like a half-baked affair from the talented Jason Reitman.
Filmed in a docu-drama like way that throws viewers headfirst into the energy infused final days of Harts doomed bid at the White House, thanks to his private affairs and inability to remain faithful to his wife, Runner starts with a bang as we get thrust along for this journey and if there was ever a character made for Jackman to bring to life its Hart, with the charismatic and intelligent actor fitting into the role with aplomb but as the novelty wears off and as the films runtime draws closer and closer to its endgame, you can’t help but feel as though Runner is only a bare basics examination of what went down and of the questions it so intriguingly asks.
It’s a shame, as Runner is the most energetic and interesting film Reitman has made in a number of years and it’s rare to see Jackman in such an everyman role (even if Hart was clearly a seriously charismatic and switched-on individual, determined to make a difference) but the film doesn’t feel well enough set out or planned for to make the most of the tools at its disposal.
Alongside its topical true life narrative and leading man, Reitman has also recruited reliable performers Vera Farmiga as heart’s wife Lee and old mate and living legend J.K Simmons as Harts main campaign manager Bill Dixon but in the midst of all the scenarios the film throws up and screen time it allocates to Hart, these notable actors get short changed in a film that is hastily edited and perhaps not ponderous enough as it needed to be as we get lost in a collection of side characters, situations and scenarios that keep the plot ticking along, but not so much the emotional investment or intrigue that’s evident when the film first kicks of proceedings.
One thing the film does unquestionable well is in its recreation of a time gone by when the press and media was still more genuinely concerned with the politics of politics not so much the mind games and innuendo that gets played out in today’s climate with Runner making you pine for a time gone by where questions and pieces that were raised and developed were more around the betterment of the country, not so much the mudslinging and misdemeanors that now take pride and place in the headlines for many a politician.
Final Say –
Gary Hart’s story is one worth telling and offers Reitman a solid feature to deploy but The Front Runner never reaches the potential you feel it had at its fingertips, especially with such a loaded subject matter and a fine central turn from its leading man. All said and done, The Front Runner ends up being disappointingly forgettable.
3 party boats out of 5