'The Front Runner' - A relevant affair [REVIEW]

The Front Runner

The relevance is indeed strong with this one.

This year, we are blessed enough to get not just one, but two new movies from Jason Reitman — the first being Tully, which was released back in May, and the second being The Front Runner.

Make no mistake. Each film might contain a certain amount of Reitman-isms, for lack of a better word, but they are very, very different movies.

Very different movies that you should still see, because both Tully and The Front Runner are pretty brilliant in their own ways.

The Front Runner is an in-depth look into Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman), a U.S. Senator from Colorado who was positioned to be voted in as the next President of the United States during the 1988 election.

The Front Runner
credit: YouTube

Positioned really isn’t an understatement, either. While Hart may have lost the 1984 nomination to vice-president Walter Mondale, it was enough to put his name out there and build a fanbase (we see you Beto, we see you).

It didn’t take long for practically the entire country to fall in love with him after that, as he practically went into the 1988 election with no competition whatsoever.

And yet, Hart never did become president. George H.W. Bush did, as Hart withdrew his name only a few months before November 6.

The reason, as shown in The Front Runner, was because a series of stories regarding Hart and a number of different women he was allegedly having affairs were posted by the press.

The Front Runner
credit: YouTube

In particular, it was the Miami Herald who discovered that Hart may or may not be having an affair with a woman named Donna Rice (Sara Paxton), which they learned only after they staked-out in front of Hart’s house for multiple days.

It was enough to rattle Hart, though. While his campaign, lead by Bill Dixon (J.K. Simmons), tried to do damage control and make the story out to not be that big of a deal (Hart himself seemed to hate having to talk about this kind of thing in public), the articles kept coming and, eventually, he couldn’t take it anymore.

The Front Runner, which is set over a three-week period, also focuses on some other key players involved with the whole scandal at the time.

There’s a big emphasis placed on Hart’s wife, Oletha “Lee Hart” (Vera Farmiga) and daughter, Andrea Hart (Kaitlyn Dever), as well as Donna Rice and the various newsrooms trying to decide what stories they will and won’t run.

The Front Runner
credit: YouTube

Which, as you might imagine, provides a fascinating and really well-told story from Reitman.

I’m not from an era where I remember the whole Hart scandal going down. Being born in the 1990’s, I may have heard his name in passing, but I’ve never done an in-depth look into his life and don’t remember every studying him at school.

While knowing that we can’t take everything a movie that’s supposedly based on a true story to be gospel, I then found The Front Runner to be a really informative and engaging history lesson on a topic I knew very little about.

Reitman is the one to primarily thank for that, I think, as he’s always written really sharp scripts regardless of what subject matter he’s dealing with. Whether it’s a political drama like this or lighter romantic comedy like Juno, his movies never waste a single moment of their runtime and always cut right to the point.

The Front Runner
credit: YouTube

That’s something to definitely appreciate in The Front Runner, as very few directors would be able to pull that off when dealing with a story like this.

It’s the overall point being made in this film that begins — and I say begins because I’m still digesting this movie and need to think about it more — to bring The Front Runner into troubled waters.

The Front Runner is largely about the messy relationship between politicians the press, which is, obviously, complicated subject matter in this day and age. It’s almost an origin story of that relationship, in fact, as The Front Runner examines a small step into how our political system got so messed up in this day and age.

At the end of the day, The Front Runner places some level of blame to everyone involved in this equation even though, sadly, that level doesn’t always feel balanced.

The Front Runner
credit: YouTube

In particular, it’s the press that Reitman really seems to attack with The Front Runner, as they are not looked on with warm regards by the time the credits roll. Again, there are still counterpoints to be heard within the film — and the more you look into it, the more I think you’ll find — but this still seems to be a troubling message at the very least, especially when our current president is trying to make the press out to be an enemy of US citizens in grossly inappropriate ways.

Still, though, I don’t think Reitman set out to make The Front Runner in hopes to slam journalism or newspapers. While there’s no telling what he might have been individually thinking, I think the real point to this movie is that our system for electing presidents is and always has been a mess — a mess that’s getting worse and worse, as our modern day perspective really shows us how much we’ve digressed in the past thirty years.

So, maybe the film could have used a bit more of an offset perspective, but there are still a lot of really good things in here too.

The way Reitman treats his characters is and always have been remarkably refreshing. Hart, his wife and Donna Rice (who I was particularly impressed with the treatment of) aren’t these mythical political figures in The Front Runner, but rather are human beings with real emotions and real arcs.

The Front Runner
credit: YouTube

Of course, credit should be given to the performances as well, as Jackman, Farmiga and Paxton are all doing incredible work here. All of the supporting roles — people like Simmons, Mamoudou Athie as a Washington Post reporter and Alfred Molina as his boss, and more — all standout in their own capacities, too.

The Front Runner might not be the most complete political drama that you’ll ever see, but it’s certainly an excellent conversation starter that gets you thinking and talking about issues that should be thought and talked about. Reitman’s writing is as smooth as it’s ever been, even if it might be missing a few parts, which somehow turns a really messy subject into a very watchable film.

Watch the trailer for The Front Runner here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought about the film!

'The Front Runner' - A relevant affair [REVIEW]
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Brandon Schreur

The fella over there with the hella good hair. Movies and TV are my jam, and the fact that I get to write about them on a regular basis is the bees knees.