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Frost/Nixon (2008)

Frost/Nixon. Feature film. (2008, 122 mins) IMDB

...thankfully a 70s-period movie with no avocado appliances...

D

isgraced president Nixon lives in seclusion in his West Coast mansion. It's the period after his resignation. Ford pardoned him but he continues to deny any wrongdoing. He wants to be in the action, making the calls and asked his opinion.

David Frost, a cad, interviews pop stars and magicians. He's a performer, not a serious journalist. When he sees the worldwide broadcast of Nixon's resignation speech, he sees big numbers and gets an idea. Interview Nixon.

He's a schemer and dreamer. His TV producer won't back him, his TV broadcaster won't back him but he won't give up.

He negotiates a deal to interview Nixon for the incredible sum of $600,000. It's money he doesn't have, but that's only part of the total cost. The sum total of the investment is over $2 million. Hugh dollars for a series of interviews in 1977.

I was surprised by the number of people involved in these interviews. Each side had researchers and aides to assist in developing questions and answers. There were all sorts of technical people from lighting, camera, sound and so on.

When Frost tries to sell the interviews to the networks, they won't bite. They don't do pay for news journalism and if they did, Frost would be the last person they'd want interviewing Nixon.

He doesn't have much luck selling advertisers on the concept. He wants to syndicate the interviews himself. Get the advertising dollars and thereby buy time on network television. He never questions whether he can do it, he just assumes he will.

As the story unfolds, Frost gets deeper and deeper into it. No money. No prospects of selling it. No respect and finally no hope of pulling it off. (Sounds like the end of Act III).

The actual interviews between the two take up large chunks of the last half of the movie. Nixon is a pro at this game and Frost is out of his league. It appears Nixon is going to walk away from these interviews untouched, but as we know that doesn't happen.

If the film were merely about the interviews, it wouldn't have been much of a movie because we know the outcome of them. It's the story behind the interviews that makes this film interesting even if we don't like a cad like Frost. Yes, he's charming and charismatic, but he's also superficial and narcissistic. Because we don't care a great deal about him, it lessens the impact of his triumph in getting Nixon to admit he was involved in the cover-up, carried out illegal activities, and let people down.

The film includes aspects of Nixon that seem like revelations but are well known. Nixon was a cerebral man who wanted to be liked and didn't care much about people. As he says, it's an odd choice for him to become a politician and defies logic as to why he did and how he succeeded to achieve the highest political office in the US. Perseverance was certainly one quality he needed, because he lost as many times as he won.

I wish the seventies hadn't existed so I could avoid looking at the fashion and designs of that period. Absolutely horrendous and hideous.

In the film, the two sides say there can only be one winner from these interviews, but it seems they both benefited. Frost gained financially, in professional stature and became famous around the world. He created a new career he wouldn't otherwise have achieved. In fact without the Nixon interviews, someone like me wouldn't know who he is.

Nixon gained as well. By confessing, he eased his guilt, it appears he suffered from it, but more importantly, it allowed him to move past the same questions. Interviewers would have to come up with something new and in doing so it helped diffuse the tension.

Posted 2009/05/27 at 20h54ET in Movie Commentary.

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