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First reviews of 'Frost/Nixon' are OK/not OK

October 15, 2008 |  2:21 pm

The first few reviews of "Frost/Nixon" are out — the first from InContention's Guy Lodge, whose opinion is quite, well, frosty, giving the film only two stars, while Variety's Todd McCarthy calls it "an effective, straightforward big-screen version of Peter Morgan's shrewd stage drama about the historic 1977 TV interview in which Richard Nixon brought himself down once again."

The Hollwyood Reporter review is noncommital. The London Guardian says it is a "talky, inert drama" with performances offering "a lot of hot air — but not much real heat."

InContention's Guy Lodge calls "Frost/Nixon" a "coldly unilluminating film," adding, director Ron Howard's "hands-off direction makes for an oddly bloodless viewing experience, with a lot of talk standing in for any fresh perspective (or frankly, much of a perspective at all) on the events . . .


"Leading with his impressive, booming approximation of the Richard Nixon voice, Frank Langella is allowed to actively chew scenery and the performance becomes increasingly detached from the overall work . . . . Michael Sheen (the film’s true lead, whichever way you slice it) comes off worse than Langella. He captures Frost's initial smarminess with some relish — coming dangerously close to mugging at times — but the performance quickly becomes one-note, offering neither the magnified subtlety or shading to make Frost a compellingly flawed hero, nor the firepower to match Langella's in the film’s showy set-pieces." READ MORE

Variety disagrees: "Frank Langella's meticulous performance … doesn't instantaneously convince as the 37th president the moment you first see him, in the wake of Nixon's resignation in disgrace on Aug. 9, 1974 — the voice seems a bit langorous, the mannerisms a tad forced, his features a shade Mediterranean. But over the course of the piece, the many facets of the performance merge into an impeccably observed characterization . . . . Sheen, so effective as Tony Blair in both 'The Deal' and 'The Queen,' excels again as Frost, an insouciant ladies' man who in many ways was Nixon's opposite--light, devil-may-care and sociable rather than dark, brooding and awkward.

"Although it all pays off in a potent and revelatory final act rife with insights into the psychology and calculations of power players, the initial stretch is rather dry and prosaic." READ MORE

Writing in the London Times, Ron Howard tells the tale of how he got interested in doing the film version of "Frost/Nixon": "A couple of years ago I took a seat at the Donmar Warehouse, London. By curtain call, just under two hours later, I knew what I wanted my next film to be. I called my agents from the sidewalk in front of the theater to throw my hat into the ring for what turned into a very competitive bidding war for the rights to Peter Morgan's remarkable play.

"Watching Michael Grandage's production, I sat spellbound, surprised by the range of emotions I felt as the story unfolded . . . . It was riveting. I found myself leaning forward in suspense, exhilarated as two gladiators battled with only their formidable wits and wills. The combination of Morgan's language and the bravura acting yielded scenes as intense and surprising as any thriller. But I also found myself laughing. This was wonderfully intelligent and powerful entertainment. I had to be part of it.

"I hope the film does what Peter's play did for me: reminds us that accountability matters. When the system allows our leaders to hide behind verbal gymnastics, or to have their sins blithely rationalised by the complexity of the office they hold, it is up to the people to demand a reckoning." READ MORE