3 Stars - Thought-Provoking
Only one President in U.S. history has ever resigned. This occurred on August 9, 1974 when Richard Nixon, with no admission of guilt and an immediate pardon by the next President, defiantly raised his arms in victory and left the White House. This lack of closure or accountability set the stage for a taped interview by David Frost (Michael Sheen) of former President Nixon (Frank Langella) which provided both. Based on an award-winning play by Peter Morgan and directed by Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind), “Frost/Nixon” tells the larger story of this televised event.
Taking us back in time to the 1970’s, Frost is losing his career. Although he understands the medium of television, his reputation as a “talk show host” is waning when he becomes obsessed with interviewing Nixon. Nixon, having been forced out of office, wants the opportunity to reclaim his reputation and get back into politics. Their mutual need brings them together in a risky enterprise which is going to cost one of them their future. It is this challenge that motivates and stresses them both.
The interview is easily under Nixon’s control until the final taping. Having contractually agreed to keep Watergate questions to only one fourth of the conversation, Frost saves this topic to the end. Panicked, he turns to his investigators James Reston, Jr. (Sam Rockwell) and Oliver Platt (Bob Zelnick). When they provide him with a yet-unpublished conversation between Nixon and his private lawyer that clearly shows him to be a part of the cover-up of the Watergate break-in, Frost adeptly uses the information to break through the protective armor of the former President. It is then that Nixon confesses his crime and expresses regret to the American people. It is a moment of healing both for Nixon and our nation.
Confession is taking the opportunity to admit the truth about ourselves and our behaviors so that we no longer have to hide from others. Nixon expresses this desire to confess during a break in the taping. His aide Jack Brennan (Kevin Bacon) urges him to consider the consequences of such an act, but it is clear that Nixon’s troubled soul requires it.
“Frost/Nixon” presents Richard Nixon as a troubled soul who felt that he was fighting everyone around him, including the media. The isolation this caused in Nixon’s life and his resulting actions are better understood because of this film and the interviews of David Frost so brilliantly portrayed.
Does this film help you understand why Richard Nixon behaved as he did? Why or why not?
The identification Nixon has with David Frost creates in him a willingness to confess. Do you believe this was good for Nixon to do? Would you have confessed if you were him? Why or why not?
Richard Nixon passed away in 1994 of a stroke. Do you think it is too soon to do a film like this or has the right amount of time elapsed to expose these events?