The Front Runner

Director: Jason Reitman

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, J.K. Simmons, Mamoudou Athie

Release Date: November 21, 2018

“The Front Runner” provides half-baked commentary on Gary Hart’s 1988 presidential bid, which ended due to his inability to keep his dick to himself.

The Front Runner is a true story that follows the final weeks of Gary Hart’s (Jackman) presidential candidacy in the Spring of 1987. At the outset of the movie, Hart is the front-runner to win the Democratic nomination for president and seems to be the favorite to end up in the white house. His campaign goes off the deep end, however, when a group of reporters invade Hart’s private life and catch him with his dick in the cookie jar. The journalists go on to report that he is likely having an extra-marital affair, wreaking havoc on his presidential hopes. Hart and his team of staffers are left trying to save his campaign, while questions of journalistic ethics and privacy are brought to the forefront.

On the surface, The Front Runner has all the pieces needed to be a worth-while movie. It stars Hugh Jackman, J.K. Simmons supports, the story covers a real-life political scandal and Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air) is its director. It’s a real solid list of ingredients, but somehow this movie still ends up being a real snoozer. This is 2018, dammit. In a political landscape in which the president could live-stream himself fucking a prostitute to the score of rising approval numbers, political dramas are going to have to come harder than this. The Front Runner lacks focus, is slow to develop and fails to take its themes to a poignant place.

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The Front Runner is not the chaotic whirlwind that the trailer would suggest. The movie, at its essence, attempts to show the turning point when tabloid gossip and political journalism began to blend. It asks the audience to question what is and what is not crossing the line as it pertains to reporting on a politician’s private life. In 2018, when politicians can seldom take a shit without a Huffington Post blogger handing them a wet wipe, I’m not sure its a relevant question.

What should’ve been a narrative exclusively following the collapse of Gary Hart, ends up being a series of newsroom shots with the staff debating journalistic ethics. By its end, the Front Runner feels like it borrowed all of the worst parts from Spotlight and All the President’s Men.

The movie delves into several secondary themes that are never fully explored and make the movie seem underdeveloped. The movie is slow with seemingly no purpose for its pace. It’s essentially five incredibly well-acted scenes (all in the trailer above), surrounded by an entire movie that should have been left on the cutting room floor. It falls woefully short of being the sharp commentary on society that it believes itself to be.

As you can imagine, given its cast, it is well-acted. Hugh Jackman gives an inspired performance as Gary Hart and looks damn good doing it. J.K. Simmons, who plays Hart’s campaign manager, is great and might be the best part of this movie. He’s sharp as usual, and delivers comedic relief in an otherwise stale movie. There are a host of supporting roles that give the film a real “too many cooks in the kitchen” feel. This leaves a lot of the characters, like the movie’s themes, feeling underdeveloped. There simply isn’t enough screen-time to go around.

This one isn’t very good at all. It’s certainly doesn’t live up to what you would expect from a Jason Reitman movie. If you’re someone who has an interest in politics and needs a break from the spiked-bat-to-the-temple that is today’s political climate, it might do a little something for you, but overall, this movie is a disappointment and not worth a look.

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