The Front Runner
Out Now On-Demand
The week America went tabloid.
American Senator Gary Hart's (Hugh Jackman) 1988 presidential campaign is derailed by scandal in this political biopic from four-time Oscar nominee Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air). Vera Farmiga and J.K. Simmons co-star.
"Having lost the democratic ticket to Walter Mondale in 1984, Gary Hart (Jackman) made a triumphant return to candidacy in 1987, at a moment when his party was desperate to wrestle power back from the Republicans after two terms of Reagan. Hart had everything going for him: intelligence, charisma, and experience as a lawyer, campaign manager, and senator, not to mention an ideal First Lady in wife Lee (Farmiga). But everything starts to crumble when word circulates that Hart is a womaniser - a rumour quickly followed by reports that he had an affair with Donna Rice (Sara Paxton)." (Toronto International Film Festival)
- International Trailer 2
- International Trailer
- US Trailer
- Vignette: The Hart of It All
- Vignette: A Look Inside
- Jason Reitman('Juno', 'Thank You for Smoking', 'Up in the Air')
Drama, True Story & Biography
Rating: M Offensive language
A lot can happen in three weeks. That’s the time frame on offer in Jason Reitman’s (Juno, Up in the Air) real life political fable. Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman), the front runner in question, was poised to become President in 1988—he was the leading Democratic candidate and polls had him thumping the eventual winner George H. W. Bush. But Gary was what older Kiwis call a bit of a rooter, a hard dog to keep on the porch, etc. To others he’s a classic #MeToo type, and that tension is central to the film.
As has been well documented, it’s the wife, (Vera Farmiga) and the mistress (Sara Paxton) who take the lion’s share of the pain in these scenarios and the latter is practically thrown to the wolves in the most intense moment of all. Poor old Gary is in such a deep state of denial it’s hard not to think of Trump or perhaps our own Jami-Lee Ross, though of course Mr Hart had some actual vision and a famously lovely head of hair, said to be worth 4 percentage points in the polls.
Hart is convinced that one’s private life is just that and turns down cheesy photo ops—except for his own highly orchestrated propaganda. He bemoans the changing morality of America as it slips into the tabloid abyss but is unable to contemplate sexual politics and his own abuse of power.
Period media is seamlessly meshed into this slow moving political train-wreck, including a golden moment from Johnny Carson. The late 80s recreations are spot on, especially in the brilliant opening scene full of video tape and ciggies.
It never delivers a killer blow however and Jackman’s Hart feels a tad sluggish to be sure, but there’s much to admire, thanks mostly to an incredibly solid supporting cast. As ever, Reitman reveals a deft hand when it comes to interpersonal dynamics and the mordant humour that resides in the everyday failures of our existence.
Los Angeles Times
Stuff.co.nz (Graeme Tuckett)