Frost/Nixon is a relatively enjoyable film with interesting moments, but it is nothing more than that. The story of a young, ambitious talk-show host from England not only capturing the most sought after political interview in the States but extracting a confession of sorts, has the makings of an intriguing drama. But, that summary is more interesting than the film itself.
Frost is played by Michael Sheen (Tony Blair in The Queen) who has made a career out of a cringe-worthy smile. He can't decide whether his role is as a one-dimensional impersonator or as a serious actor. Frost comes across as a superficial game-show host obsessed by women and his own comfort. As a result it is difficult to make the leap to regarding him as someone who has the knowledge and determination to pull off an eight hour political interview. It is like Bruce Forsyth dropping his dancing antics to do an in-depth interview with George Bush about policy.
The money obsessed Nixon is played by Frank Langella, who is too grandfatherly for my liking. I expected to see him shuffling about in slippers and struggled to imagine him as a ruthless political operator.
The other supporting roles are just as mis-placed. Matthew MacFadyen (the heart-throb of Spooks and Little Dorrit) plays Frost’s producer with a bizarre grey wig. Rebecca Hall is Frost’s girl-fiend who follows him about like a shadow and occasionally opens and shuts the bedroom door. There were also two annoying American journalists/researchers who flapped around Frost (they were meant to be helping him) for no real purpose.
Finally, the film got to the all important interview, but even then it was anti-climatic: we all knew what was going to happen, and when it did it was less dramatic than we expected.
I would have much preferred to see actual footage or interviews with the characters who still survive (i.e. Frost himself). After all, the actual moment in politics is where the drama is and the real figures are often far more interesting and comic than actors. Recent films such as Touching the Void and Man on Wire show how successful real interviews can be and how they can sustain a film. Instead Frost/Nixon presented a pale imitation of the real drama.
Films about politics don’t work. However, political films (an important distinction) are an entirely different matter. The recent films Hunger (Bobby Sands and the Maze riots) and Waltz with Bashir (the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the early 80s) dealt with political situations using shocking and original techniques, rather than Frost/Nixon’s predictable and forgettable attempt.