The Front Runner sprints to its scandalous finish line whilst tackling heavy themes. For some unknown reason, other than its political approach, this journalistic drama has disappeared from awards season. With mediocre critical reviews and a warm-ish reception by audiences, it looks as if Reitman's latest offering wasn't the best candidate for esteem voters. Well, they're wrong. What we have here is an astute, concise and consistently captivating drama that excellently balances its characters and themes. Quite riveting, actually! Gary Hart is running for presidency, his path looks to be clear. Reporters are then leaked information that he might be having an affair, and his presidential campaign comes crashing down. A scandal that tested the rights and responsibilities of one pivotal aspect. Privacy.
Reitman's screenplay explores the arguments for privacy though gruelling scenes of frustration and sharp dialogue. If one is opening themselves to be the next president, should they have the right to hide any aspect of their life if the public are to vote for them? Conversely, do journalists venture too far in the invasion of one's privacy and should it deter from their political campaign? Criticism comes from the fact that the plot doesn't thoroughly explore this central theme, to which I strongly disagree. The entire second half shifts from the chronicling of Hart's rapid rise in votes to this outrageous media frenzy that develops various character viewpoints. Whether it be his wife and daughter's disappointment, the sacrifice that his volunteers have made or specific journalists believing this news story to be just mere gossip. Various scenes felt claustrophobic, as colleagues are swarmed by the paparazzi, to enhance the idea of non-existent privacy. But what I really adore is the open-ended opinion. The film doesn't force you to sympathise with Hart or hate him for his immorality, it let's you decide. Was Hart just an innocent man robbed of his privacy? Or a womaniser who only cared for his reputation? The use of journalism made for exhilarating politics, and to be honest I breathe these kind of films. They are my blood. Writing a simple frivolous news story and transforming it into a superbly engaging drama, it follows the likes of 'Spotlight' and 'The Ides of March'.
The flustered campaigner is portrayed by Jackman who, once again, proves that he is a serious actor as well as a genuine entertainer. The slimy suaveness of Hart was imitated perfectly, as if he was a mirror of perfection. But, as soon as that mirror shatters, Jackman brings the ferocity. There's one scene where his campaign manager confronts him, and he literally bites his head off in fury. The evasiveness of his words combined with the shouting of his pitch just blew me away.
A criticism is that the supporting cast were underused, particularly Farmiga and Molina, which could've been better utilised to convey the negative repercussions of his actions. It's also worth mentioning that the film takes time to envelop you within its riveting drama. The first twenty minutes comprises of extensive scenes of boardroom meetings with generic looking actors, which makes it difficult to differentiate who is who and what is being said. However, once Hart becomes the front runner of his own film, it's "full steam ahead!". Tantalising drama containing several scenes of lingering dialogue (those press conferences were deadly) with an excellent central performance. Unfairly dismissed in my opinion.