The Front Runner: Film Review

I heard a lot of great things about The Front Runner during the London Film Festival (where I missed it) and I must admit that while Jason Reitman has made a good film, I found myself unsatisfied and wanting more.

The biographical political drama stars Hugh Jackman as Gary Hart, an American senator who seems to be the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for U.S. President before he quickly falls from grace in 1987 after the Miami Herald runs a story claiming that the married man had spent the night in Washington D.C. with Donna Rice (Sara Paxton), a 29-year-old model who had met on a boat in Miami.

I love a political drama, especially one that involves a scandal. But the issue with The Front Runner is that we don’t actually know what the full truth of the story is, so it has to be deliberately vague. Hart repeatedly and angrily denied the affair at the time and dropped out of the race weeks later, but people weren’t convinced he was telling the truth so it has to stay ambiguous, especially as they consulted Hart for the movie.

It was fantastic to see Jackman back doing drama following many outings as Wolverine and then The Greatest Showman and he proves he still has the dramatic acting chops. Hart isn’t a likeable character at all – he goes about handling the scandal in the wrong way, I didn’t believe his denials and I was definitely on the side of those who were trying to take him down. Jackman was good as the stressed politician unravelling as his personal life is made public. He also had some great support from Vera Farmiga as his wife, J.K. Simmons as his campaign manager, Mamoudou Athie as a Washington Post journalist who asks the hard, personal questions, and Molly Ephraim as his campaign scheduler, who was the emotional heart of the story for me.

It was an interesting and exciting watch and I devoured the journalist side of it, especially with the Miami Herald journalists deciding whether to publish the story or not based on sketchy evidence and the Post journalist who has some uncomfortable questions to ask Hart which he knows he won’t like. It was cool to see a case study about the relationship between politics and the press.

I just didn’t feel satisfied at the end. I was expecting more and was like ‘Is that it?’ It didn’t delve deep enough at all. I know it’s about Hart’s rise and fall but I would have really liked to know more about his wife Lee and how she coped with the fallout and what happened to Rice after she was caught up in the scandal. I would have happily watched a bit more to see those things happen.

The Front Runner is a good, interesting film with great performances from its cast all around. It just left me wanting more.

In selected cinemas now 

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