What’s the deal with major directors making audiences love the two arguably worst Presidents in U.S. history? First, Oliver Stone presented a deeply empathetic George Bush in his psychotropic biopic W., and now Ron Howard (in his most mature, even-handed film to date) gives us a Richard Nixon whose fierce snarl and placid faÃ§ade belie his deep-seated fears of personal inadequacy and historical disregard. The film pits two unlikely adversariesâ€”the urbane TV talk show host David Frost and the hunched, decidedly uncharismatic 37th Presidentâ€”in a boxing match of wits and wiliness. While the disgraced President wrestles to redeem his own faltering legacy, Frost struggles to pull his career out of a precipitous nose-dive by personally financing this risky interview.
Howard, most famous for the mundane Apollo 13 and the ironically formulaic A Beautiful Mind, creates in Frost/Nixon a genuinely awe-inspiring film, anchored by a gravitas performance by Frank Langella (as Nixon) and an equally resourceful Michael Sheen (as Frost). Langella has already picked up a Golden Globe nom for Best Performance, and deservedly so; but in a year of stiff competition (if Mickey Rourke’s turn as a deposed WWF-style champ is as good as the trailer lets on, he’s got a solid lock on that Oscar statue, in my opinion), will Langella’s bold embodiment of a shockingly complex and surprisingly empathetic antagonist win voter’s accolades?