The Front Runner (2018)

Movie Info

Movie Info

Jason Reitman
Run Time
1 hour and 53 minutes

VP Content Ratings

Sex & Nudity
Star Rating
★★★★4 out of 5

Relevant Quotes

People with a big head are headed for a fall,
    pretentious egos brought down a peg…

Isaiah 2:11 (The Message)
But he who commits adultery has no sense;
    he who does it destroys himself.

Proverbs 6:32
The press swarms around Gary Hart.                       (c) Columbia Pictures

Senator Gary Hart is the front-runner in the title. Many people thought the charismatic politician was a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1988. Many people were wrong. Director Jason Reitman’s new film focuses on the three weeks before the convention that killed his chances, or should we say, in which the candidate killed his chances to become President. The film is like a morality tale about hubris, or maybe a warning to all to, as an old Nat King Cole song put it, to  “Straighten up and fly right.” If you liked the political thriller All the President’s Men, you should enjoy Jason Reitman’s new film. (This seasoned director also gave us Juno and Up in the Air.)

With a script co-written by Reitman, policy advisor Jay Carson and journalist Matt Bai, whose book All the Truth is Out serves as the basis, the film is a fast-paced story that shows the fall-out of the senator’s adultery not only upon himself and his White House dream, but on his family, his campaign staff, and the news editors and reporters assigned to write about him. The story is of special importance, some observers say, because it was a turning point in the way that the media dealt with the private lives of politician and candidates. In the film a reporter tells of how the press had held off revealing the many sexual trysts of Presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, concentrating instead on their political views and acts. Then comes Gary Hart, who when asked about rumors of an affair, in his anger almost dares the reporter to follow him around and report what he sees.

To his later consternation reporters do just that, staking out his Washington D.C. residence and observing a woman with Hart. She turns out to be the one to whom Hart was attracted while aboard a yaht—Donna Rice (Sara Paxton. The editor of the Miami Herald decides to publish the story even though he does not have all the evidence in hand, something that Hart bitterly comments upon later. With such scenes as two reporters confronting Harsh in the darkness behind his house, there is high drama throughout the film.

The cast is uniformy excellent, headed by Hugh Jackman as Hart and Vera Farmiga as his long-suffering wife Lee Hart. For a while the pair are separated, but she remains married to him. The always watchable J.K. Simmons is Campaign Manager Bill Dixon, and Molly Ephraim, as a key campaign staff member, expresses well her discomfort and conflicted feelings about her boss as she becomes aware of his misuse of women. Indeed, the large cast is much like the ensemble casts of Robert Altman’s films.

The writers have changed things, such as designating a Washington Post reporter, the fictional A.J. Parker (Mamoudou Athie), rather than a New York Times scribe to whom Hart declared, “Follow me around. I don’t care. I’m serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They’ll be very bored.” Other changes were also made for dramatic effect, but overall the filmmakers have done well to raise questions still relevant: Can a person who as a husband cheats on his wife be trustworthy as a politician? What role should one’s personal life play in one’s profession? Europeans are much more lenient in answering these questions, although so were Americans at that time, most supporting Hart in the polls. Nonetheless because the press hounded him and his family and staff like sharks, he felt compelled to drop out of the race.

We still seem to be conflicted on this. It would seem, in the case of the support for President Trump and also for the support of his candidate for the US Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, that many Americans are willing to overlook a politician’s personal flaws if they believe in the person’s policies.

This review will be in the December issue of VP along with a set of questions for reflection and/or discussion. If you have found reviews on this site helpful, please consider purchasing a subscription or individual issue in The Store.

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