Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Frost/Nixon, the new power couple?

Anyone who reads my blog has probably noticed that I’m a fan of politics. From real political situations like Kony2012 and gay rights, to the fictional kind like Boss, The Newsroom or The Daily Show/The Colbert Report (it is considered fake news after all), I love hearing other people’s views on controversial issues. Even if I don’t agree with everything they say, I usually find something in them worth learning from or at least considering. So when I sat down to watch the Ron Howard movie Frost/Nixon, I was really looking forward to it. The whole Watergate scandal is well before my time, but the effects of it has pretty much changed the face of politics ever since. Finding out the details brought a lot of context to how politics work in this day and age and the way in which people overuse the suffix “-Gate” every time some political scandal pops up these days.
Of course, Frost/Nixon isn’t really about Watergate as much as it was about the political fallout and aftermath of the scandal getting out, how people dealt with it and the part that the interview between David Frost and Richard Nixon played in the healing process. It’s interesting to realize that for all the controversial elements of the Watergate scandal, most of which remain somewhat unresolved, no one ever seems to talk about the fact that Gerald Ford pardoned the disgraced former president for wrong doing that he might have done. From a political perspective, I can understand why a president would do such a thing. The late Richard Nixon put a black mark on the presidency, and politics in general, and not doing something would have been so much worse than what he did.
The film begins with one of the biggest events in political history, watching the only American President to ever resign from the most powerful position in the free world. It shows the reaction of David Frost to the event and from there you watch almost voyeuristically as these two men take the journey towards their eventual clash. Now what’s interesting about the film is that while many historical or political films would strive for the actor who looks most like the figure they are playing, Ron Howard has gone for more of an interpretation of those involved then an imitation of the figures themselves. Part of the reason for that appears to be one of the historical messages of the film. Howard has made a point of saying that one of the reasons he wanted to make the film is because of the political climate of the day, post-Bush administration.
He wanted to draw parallels between the loss of political trust that occurred after both Watergate and the invasion of Iraq. That may be part of the reason that I didn’t really connect with the material as much as I would’ve hoped to. It tried to walk the line between a huge generational gap and it didn’t entirely keep its balance all the way through. While there are a fair amount of similarities between the two situations, Vietnam versus Iraq, wire tapping and clandestine investigations of citizens without their consent and invasion of a right to privacy, I don’t think we are far enough away from the Iraq war (we’re still fighting it in 2012 and the movie was released in 2008) to truly give it the historical context that it deserves.
Because of that, I’m not sure that the film has the emotional impact that it’s going for. Then again, it may simply be that I have too much emotional distance between both events that I simply can’t get as angry or invested in the tragic reality of the circumstances these two characters are living in. So is Frost/Nixon the new power couple? Unfortunately, I don’t think I care enough about them to say yes.

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