TIFF Exclusive – The Front Runner Review

Our guest writer/correspondence John H Foote writes from TIFF18 about Hugh Jackman starrer – The Front Runner

In 1987, Gary Hart was the leading contender for the presidential nominee of the Republican Party after losing the nomination to Walter Mondale in 1984. He had it all, good movie star looks, movie star friends such as Warren Beatty, a lovely wife, he had the Kennedy appeal that would win voters over from George Bush Sr. But Hart was brought down by a sex scandal when a group of reporters preyed on some comments he made, after he dared them to follow him, and they did. In the process, they discovered a young model Donna Rice he had been having an affair with. Jason Reitman impressed the film world with ‘Juno’ (2007) and ‘Up in the Air’ (2009) both TIFF premieres, both best picture and best director nominees, but stalled after that. He made a comeback of sorts in the summer with ‘Tully’ (2018) and is back with this political drama that tells the true story of Hart.
In many ways the media were hypocrites, ignoring the high number of affairs and sexual dalliances by JFK and even more so Lyndon Johnson. Yet with Hart, times had changed and they showed no mercy. They went after Hart, his wife and daughter, and Donna Rice, making their already very public lives a living hell. You can see the weight of the world landing on Hart, well played by Hugh Jackman, though I still remain unconvinced of his acting prowess, some love him, I do not. He tends to get drowned out by the people managing him, which is likely what happened, but it did not help us understand him. When resented with the evidence the reporters have against him, he is like a deer in the headlights, while his wife, portrayed by Vera Fermiga, silently seethes with rage. All she had ever asked of him, knowing of his exploits was that he never humiliate her, and he has done exactly that.
Miss Rice suffered as Monica Lewinski did, and her life was pretty much ruined because of the affair. Hart’s political career was left in shambles, and his presidential run stopped dead. How history might have changed with Hart as the President. It certainly would have erased any chance of any Bush Presidency, either father or son, and might have led to a very different America. Considering the state of the Presidency right now, with a man who has openly had affairs with porn stars and prostitutes, and flaunts it in front of his wife, what Hart did was morally repugnant, but really nothing compared to Trump.
The best performance in the film comes from the great character actor JK Simmons as Dixon, the campaign manager for Hart, who knows before the candidate does that it is over. Reitman gives the film a Robert Altman feel at the beginning, lots of motion and talking when I think he should have been working out the characters and allowing us to get to know them. Sadly I felt nothing for Gary Hart, Jackman did not bring one iota of sympathy, but his wife and daughter? My heart wept for them.
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The Cinemawala Rating: 2/5

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John H. Foote is among the best-known film critics in Canada and has been active as a critic for thirty years.
His career began as co-host, co-producer of the popular movie talk and review program Reel to Real. He left the show after ten years for his first love, print criticism, he longed to write about movies. For two years he wrote for Toronto Life and Fashion Magazine, his work quote in the LA and New York Times, as well as major papers across North America. He was offered a position writing for the internet and has since written for incontention.com, thewrap.com, screenrant.com, awardscircuit.com and most recently thecinemaholic.com. In May 2018 he started his own site Footeandfriendsonfilm.com, which has enjoyed great success its first few months.
Foote was also involved in film education teaching film history and film genre at Trebas Institute before leaving to be Dean of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history and continued his work as a critic.
Foote has written two books, “Clint Eastwood: Evolution of a Filmmaker”, and “Spielberg: American Film Visionary” (due in 2019). His third, “American Cinema in the Seventies” is due for release in 2020.
Through his career, he has interviewed everyone in the business except Jack Nicholson!

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