Writer: Matt Bai, Jay Carson, Jason Reitman (Screenplay) Matt Bai (Book)
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, J.K. Simmons, Mark O’Brien, Molly Ephraim, Chris Coy, Alex Karpovsky,
Plot: In 1987, U.S. Senator Gary Hart‘s presidential campaign is derailed when he’s caught in a scandalous love affair.
Tagline – Gary Hart was going to be President. Instead he changed American Politics forever.
Runtime: 1 Hour 53 Minutes
There may be spoilers in the rest of the review
Verdict: Over-Populated Political Thriller
Story: The Front Runner starts after Gary Hart (Jackman) has missed out on the Vice-President position, four-years later in 1987, Gary is running for the Presidency, he is the clear favourite too, his team which includes Bill Dixon (Simmons) knows it is only a matter of time before he wins, while the opposition team is looking for weakness in his reputation.
Gary’s lead starts taking a hit when an early report of a potential affair emerges and before long every single newspaper in the country is trying to cover the story on different levels, some using it as a gossip column while others just want to question his own integrity. This will see Gary’s hope of becoming President come crashing down around him.
Thoughts on The Front Runner
Characters – These characters are based on real people, which will show certain ones in good and bad lights. Senator Gary Hart is running for Presidency, is has the whole campaign under complete control, which has all but guaranteed he would become the next President of the United States. Gary has the ability to spin any story that is placed on front of him, to show that he could bring America a brighter future. Gary however does have a secret with an affair which the press turn into a big story which sees him needing to try and recover from the spiralling situation he has created with his own wrong doing. Lee Hart is the wife of Gary, she has been part of a previous separation which made her suffer enough, she has however always stood by her man with strict rules for the future. Bill Dixon is the campaign manager for Gary, that wants to keep everything simple only this becomes difficult when the truth starts to come out. The Front Runner struggles with one big problem, we have such a large cast of characters it does make it hard to keep up with the almost nameless characters, we have three or four papers and their staff, the campaign team, the people involved in the potential affair, it just becomes completely keeping up with who is who.
Performances – Hugh Jackman is great to watch in the leading role, if he was given that one scene to try and make his character truly memorable it would have put him into a stronger respected performance for the year. Vera Farmiga does everything asked of her character which she doesn’t do anything wrong with. J.K. Simmons almost feels wasted in his role which should have been larger for what is going on. Most of the performances do seem to struggle for this reason.
Story – The story here follows a presidential candidate whose life becomes filed with speculation after an alleged affair that both sides denied saw him going from a guarantee winner to needing to withdraw, changing the way politics are portrayed in the papers forever. This story does put the spotlight on the moment that saw a change in how politics and journalist operated, the film even points out in the fact that previous Presidents asked for heads to be turned about affairs, but this alleged one saw the country turn on any person that was willing to cheat. The story does show how the three weeks changed the whole race, only it does try to put way too many characters into the film which does make it hard to keep up with who each person is and what side of the story they really are on.
Biopic/History – We follow a 3 week period in Gary Hart’s life, the three weeks that took him from being the next President to the moment he withdrew wanting to keep the false accusations about him out of the papers, this shows how quickly the public can turn on people and the media can make it happen, this plays into the history side of electing a President because we see how minds suddenly changed after how previous ones had acted.
Settings – The film does use the authentic settings, show how the press would hide for a story, while Gary would use the public to put an end to the stories being made up.
Final Thoughts – This is a story which does feel like it should be told to more people, only this version of the story is completely over-saturated be characters making it hard to keep up with.
Overall: Political Thriller that just doesn’t pack the punch.