In 1980’s America, Senator Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman) is the great white hope of the US Democratic Party. Emerging as the good-looking front-runner for the presidential nomination, his political shot seems secure. However under the spotlight of press scrutiny, another man is revealed…
…Sadly evasive and yet still oddly authentic.
Director Jason Reitman’s new political drama sees actor Hugh Jackman as a real-life politician Gary Hart in a deliberately un-showy role. Erudite and articulate, Hart is a man preoccupied with the nation’s future, rather than the here and now of his campaign. Unconcerned by the pitfalls that might await him, he declares that his private life should be separated from his public office persona.
Followed by the press corps, and in particular, the Washington Post’s A.J. Parker (an excellent Mamoudou Athie) Hart’s approachable veneer starts to pale when questioned about his marriage. Charged with protecting Hart’s ascension to the White House, campaign manager Bill Dixon (an ever dependable J K Simmons) and empathic intern Irene Kelly (Molly Ephraim) try their best to protect Hart from himself – and it’s these incidental moments that ‘The Front Runner gets a lot right.
However seen though the prism of other electoral dramas (‘True Colours’, ‘The Ides of March’ and others) ‘The Front Runner’ ultimately turns into a three legged nag. Faltering at its start and slow to declare its intentions, opening with twenty minutes of cross-talk dialogue, the film doesn’t produce any genuine intrigue until the half way mark. Unfortunately by that point the damage is done and the movie skulks away by its close, refusing to address the actions of its lead (or those who would pursue him).
Sadly evasive and yet still oddly authentic, ‘The Front Runner’ is as shy with its opinions as its central character is with the truth. Closing with a feeble speech, supposedly re-edited to foreshadow the “post-truth” reality we live in, this is a movie that doesn’t know what it wants to tell you – much like Gary Hart himself.