biography drama film movie review

The Front Runner Review

By Ian Crow

Just when you thought American politics wasn’t already talked about enough on the news, now you have ‘The Front Runner’ starring Hugh Jackman which is all about the controversy surrounding a politician in the run in to the presidential election. Based on the true events of Gary Hart, a U.S senator for the Democratic Party, the story starts with his loss for the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1984. Skip forward three years to 1987, Hart decides to run again to become president for the 1988 elections. The polls were tipped in his favour to be the front runner as the title may suggest, he becomes embroiled in a sex scandal that turns everything upside down.

Being that January is normally full of award season nominated movies, its initially surprising that it hasn’t been recognised. It’s not the front runner (pardon the pun) or even talked about in any of the upcoming award ceremonies. It’s certainly a surprise that a story like this, a politically driven drama, isn’t in contention for any awards as it is one you might expect to be sniffing around the Oscars; however there are plenty of reasons why it isn’t. ‘The Front Runner’ isn’t exactly one of the best films I’ve seen in recent years; it’s fairly enjoyable, especially for a politically driven movie, which can normally be overlong and a drab. It’s short and sweet, has a fantastic lead in the always impressive Hugh Jackman, and its most unquestionably a story that is relevant in modern times (politicians involved in sexual scandals and cheating on their partners, looks like nothing has changed in the last 30 years!).  On the downside, it is lacking a real oomph that any great drama should be delivering. There is very little build up in tension and the lack of ability to empathize with the main character, Gary Hart, furthered this lack of excitement. The potential of the film to create the perfect opportunity to up the ante and make the audience feel hot under the collar by the sexual scandal being released in the papers never really pays off due to this lack of build-up.
Barring the disappointment in the build-up of tension, the acting is really enjoyable. As mentioned previously, Hugh Jackman plays the lead Gary Hart extremely well. As always, his energy and power really helps elevate the film to levels that it wouldn’t meet if it wasn’t for the Australian actor. What I loved most about his role is that we are so used to a good guy sort of character that Jackman plays, whereas with Hart it’s great to see Jackman play a character that’s so different to his norm. Alongside Jackman, we have Vera Farmiga, JK Simmons and Alfred Molina, all of them are able to deliver incredible performances just seem to let their guard down slightly which is disappointing. What surprised me most is my interest in the unknown actor (to myself anyway) Mamoudou Athie. Portraying the role of AJ Parker, a young aspiring journalist that is torn between exposing Gary Hart for the love rat he is or allowing him to become what could had been a great presidency if it wasn’t brought into the national media. I really liked the character of AJ as he seemed to almost be the fly on the wall character. Not necessarily anyone of much importance to the overall picture, but one that knows too much about the extremely popular Democratic front runner.

It’s a shame that ‘The Front Runner’ doesn’t do more to really grab my attention. Initially as I walked out, I agreed with my colleague, Morton that I enjoyed the film but as a few days have passed, it’s an experience that has faded already and almost has become forgettable. A great movie is one that sticks with me for days, weeks, even months. This however has not had the effect I was hoping it would have. If I were you, I’d save the money in your pocket and catch ‘The Front Runner’ when it arrives on your favourite streaming service.

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