The Front Runner (15)



Drama (2018)
113mins US

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Molly Ephraim, Vera Farmiga, Mark O'Brien, JK Simmons
Director: Jason Reitman
Writer(s): Jay Carson, Matt Bai, Jason Reitman
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Four years after conceding the race for the Democratic presidential nomination to Walter Mondale, Senator Gary Hart is widely regarded as his party's front runner to lead 1988 America. The handsome politician from Kansas hits the election trail flanked by wife Lee and daughter Andrea. The politician has a healthy lead in polls until journalists from the Miami Herald doorstep Hart at his Washington DC townhouse, where he has been entertaining a woman called Donna Rice.

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LondonNet Film Review
The Front Runner (15)

Politics and sleaze have become depressingly frequent bedfellows in recent years, ushering us into an era where the press and social media scrutinise the moral fibre of public servants. Director Jason Reitman's sharp-suited drama The Front Runner unfolds several years before Monica Lewinsky's dress stained global consciousness. Co-written by Matt Bai and Jay Carlson, the film focuses on three tumultuous weeks in the late 1980s, when political journalism abruptly shifted focus from manifestos to the personal lives of one person vying for public approval...

The Front Runner. Copyright: 2018 CTMG, Inc. Caption: Hugh Jackman as Gary Hart in The Front Runner, directed by Jason Reitman. Photo: Frank Masi SMPSP. All Rights Reserved.Senator Gary Hart from Colorado, portrayed with tub-thumping conviction by Hugh Jackman, is the charismatic figure caught in the eye of a raging media storm, who refuses to answer questions about an extra-marital affair when he would rather concentrate on policy. "I've been doing this for 20 years," rages Hart. "The public doesn't care about this." He was wrong and his fall from grace in the blinking red lights of dozens of TV cameras is fascinating food for thought in a film that doesn't deliver the landslide victory it promises. Four years after conceding the race for the Democratic presidential nomination to Walter Mondale, who subsequently failed to prize the keys to the White House from Ronald Reagan, Senator Gary Hart (Jackman) is widely regarded as the Democrat front runner to lead 1988 America.

The handsome politician from Kansas hits the election trail flanked by wife Lee (Vera Farmiga) and daughter Andrea (Kaitlyn Dever). Hart has a gift for headline-grabbing slogans - "The world changes when young people give a damn!" - and soundbites about Perestroika, aided by a crack campaign team under the direction of no-nonsense manager Bill Dixon (JK Simmons). The politician has a healthy lead in polls until journalists from the Miami Herald doorstep Hart at his Washington DC townhouse, where he has been entertaining a woman called Donna Rice (Sara Paxton). Hart's deputy campaign manager John B Emerson (Tommy Dewey), press secretary Kevin Sweeney (Chris Coy), policy aide Doug Wilson (Josh Brener), schedule coordinator Irene Kelly (Molly Ephraim) and aide-de-camp Billy Shore (Mark O'Brien) are embroiled in a race against time to salvage the team's hard work. Hart reluctantly telephones his wife. "What they're going to write... shouldn't ever be written. I can't seem to stop them..." he blathers. "I feel so stupid," he adds pathetically. "Good," tersely replies Lee. "You should."

The Front Runner is tethered to Jackman's performance and he compels us to see beyond the flaws of his statesman. The script is underpowered and refuses to delve deeply into emotional meat of those three weeks when media executives openly professed, "It's up to us to hold these guys responsible." Like Hart's campaign, Reitman's film is a slickly orchestrated, entertaining circus that stumbles at the final hurdle.

- Sam Cannon

The Front Runner. Copyright: 2018 CTMG, Inc. Caption: Hugh Jackman as Gary Hart in The Front Runner, directed by Jason Reitman. Photo: Frank Masi SMPSP. All Rights Reserved.


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