In the early scenes Director Jason Reitman moves the political aspects of the film in a documentary style. Later on he reaches into the emotions of the characters as they all fall one way or another as Unites State’s Senator Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman) throws away possibly receiving the Democratic nomination for President and the opportunity to win the Presidency.
The reporters who are at times conflicted by the story of a boat called, Monkey Business and the stunning young woman Donna Rice (Sarah Paxton) that Hart becomes involved with. They begin for the first time challenging the intimate actions of a Presidential candidate. In the discussions back and forward at the meetings of the department heads at the Miami Herald, Washington Post and the New York Times there is stumbling as to what to do. In the past alleged intimate activity by John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and others was ignored by the press.
Hart comes along at just the wrong time he is the first to view his private activities spread out in the press, particularly newspapers and TV. In newer history President Bill Clinton’s involvement with an intern created a crisis and President Donald Trump’s history appears to be full of publicized activities outside of marriage.
Hart played effectively by Hugh Jackman is open, confident and perhaps even arrogant in keeping his position that his personal life is none of the business of the press. But after Hart all bets with the press were off. It’s also interesting that during discussions early in the Presidential election of 1988 when Governor Michael Dukakis is mentioned members of the press ask who is he. The big political question which is not answered is, could Hart have won?
But once the political facts and flashes on TV are behind during the introduction in the first minutes of the film, the heart of Reitman’s work comes to light. The effect upon the folks in the Hart campaign, his family and most important Donna Rice are the most effective in the film.
Sarah Paxton as Rice impressively makes her case when she points out that she is an honor college graduate and that wishes that men would see her skills rather than just how she looks. She is the most harmed character as she is forced to travel through a crowd of reporters when leaving to return home. The characters all hit high emotional notes. Vera Farmiga as Mrs Lee Hart shows strength as long as she can, only to breakdown when alone with Hart. J. K. Simmons as usual is a strong in charge campaign manager and Molly Ephraim shows a range of emotions when she is assigned to manage Rice.
Alfred Molina plays Ben Bradley but the most impressive performance be a newspaper person is turned in by Nyasia Hatendi who even as a sympathetic reporter delivers the fatal blow.
The politics is fun, but the wearing effects of the affair on each of the main characters is most impressive.
A non-partisan, if disingenuously enterprising political drama starring Hugh Jackman (in a brown hairpiece) reveals what happens when politics mixes with sex for a rising married Colorado Democratic senator Gary Hart based on the book All The Truth Is Out by political correspondent Matt Bai.
The Front Runner comes from Labor Day and Up in the Air director Jason Reitman (son of Ivan) and has an overlapping method that isn’t very efficient as a point-of-view or point (itself) really isn’t established.
A dogged press fuels the narrative from Reitman, author Bai, and Jay Carson (once a political consultant) set mainly in the three weeks of 1988 chronicling the downfall of Hart (a sympathetic, if indignant Jackman of Logan and The Greatest Showman) that Reitman can’t fill with much dynamism. If one recalls exemplary genre examples like The Candidate starring Robert Redford in the Nixon era which is emulated and idolized here, but doesn’t earn the same style points.
Being the top Democratic contender for the Presidency (hobnobbing with Hollywood stars like Warren Beatty) didn’t turn out well when incriminating photos hit the tabloids of Hart with pharmaceutical rep/model Donna Rice (Sara Paxton) on a yacht called ‘Monkey Business’. The adulterous, affronted Hart was swept away from his run to succeed Ronald Reagan as his cocky demeanor in handling it (not wanting his private life public) left him looking hardly bright.
The severe criticizing and ‘gotcha’ takedown was prompted by the Miami Herald’s Tom Fielder (Steve Zissis). Less ruthless Washington Post reporter A.J. Parker (Mamoudou Athie) displayed more ambivalence about breaking the scandal, at least for as long as superiors like Ben Bradlee (Alfred Molina) would allow. There may appear to be opportunities missed in this adaptation to give it more preeminence, notably in the possible machinations to permanently derail a likable, but wandering family man.
Casting isn’t an issue as the reliable J.K. Simmons (in Reitman’s terrific “Juno”) is surprised campaign manager Bill Dixon, Vera Farmiga long-suffering missus Oletha (Lee), and Kaitlyn Dever as daughter Andrea all offer creditable backup. As charismatic and naïve as an against-type Jackman may be in the lead part he really isn’t that reminiscent of Hart. Still, The Front Runner probably has enough going for it to prompt lounge discussions contrasting politicians and their indiscretions over the years with names like Gennifer Flowers or Stormy Daniels popping up.