It’s crazy to think about the fact that I have reached the point in my life that events I remember are becoming the subjects of narrative films. Granted, the events portrayed in Jason Reitman’s “The Front Runner” feel like relevant events in late ‘80s clothing, but the fact that this story existed shows how much all of the events that would come after it would be fueled by it.
Taking place over the three weeks before Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman) backed out of the race over issues involving a pleasure cruise (literally) to Bimini, this film boasts a cast that includes Vera Farmiga as his wife, Lee, J.K. Simmons as top aide Bill Dixon, Alfred Molina, Ari Graynor, Steve Zissis, Bill Burr, Kevin Pollack, and Mike Judge, the story unfolds as a simple quote in an interview with the Washington Post prompts a group from the Miami Herald to basically stake out Hart’s Washington townhome, resulting in a scandal that at the time was one of the biggest deals of the 1988 election season.
“The Front Runner” is primed to be released in the fourth quarter of the year to take advantage of awards season fever, but I am not quite sure it will do anything to stand out. Although I enjoyed the film very much, there just seemed to be something missing here. The performances are good (including Jackman, who I was not sure about until I went to the web and pulled up a picture of Hart, and it turns out there is a striking resemblance), it is well shot and directed, but there is an “X” factor that I cannot find. There are some pacing issues although they did not take me out of it, but I would also have liked to see Donna Rice’s story arc have more attention paid to it. Hart’s story was played out for the entire free world to see, but I am not sure I know enough about her path as it unfolded. (Ironically, the actress that plays her in Sara Paxton was born in 1988.) And as much as I enjoy this cast, there was a bit too much time spent in the newsrooms that really went nowhere but to put some “this is crazy, man” kind of jokes as perhaps a pallet cleanser that bordered on non-sequitur.
In a time where scandals like this seem to mean it’s simply a Tuesday, remembering a time when the Hart/Rice incident captured the attention of a nation and opened the door for the court of public opinion to kick it into overdrive, it is interesting to remember that time, and “The Front Runner” does a good job of capturing that period of time for those that may not be aware of its story and even those that want to revisit it again.