‘The Front Runner’ Review: A politically relevant true-life tale about the cost of accountability
‘The Front Runner’ is based on the true story of former Colorado senator Gary Hart whose career was ruined by a sex scandal
‘The Front Runner’ earnestly captures a time in American history where the “what happens on the road stays on the road” mentality was debunked and publicly scrutinized by the media. Hugh Jackman stars as Colorado senator Gary Hart, a man who was beloved by American citizens and was very likely to become the democratic nominee for president in 1988. However, after just three weeks on the campaign trail, his chances of that happening were ruined.
Hart was a man that was effortlessly charming but also wildly manipulative, a role Jackman was superb in. On the surface, Hart was the epitome of a family man with a loving wife and daughter. However, in reality, he had a wandering eye both his wife and campaign workers quietly condoned. That is until the media caught wind of one of his many indiscretions - an affair with model Donna Rice (played by Sara Paxton).
First discovered by journalists on the campaign trail with Hart, many had an internal struggle outing a man that had been nothing but kind and respectful to them. That said, his manipulative ways and entitled behavior made him the perfect person to be put under public scrutiny for his personal affairs. After trying to ignore the problem at hand and focus solely on the political race, Hart finally had to face the media and answer the tough questions and accusations he had been running from.
This then posed the question, should a candidate’s personal life and past really have an effect on their ability to help run a country? In today’s political climate, most would say the answer is yes. However, as we all know, many politicians are still being elected into office in spite of a shady past, but the media is currently fighting harder now more than ever to spread the truth. In fact, Hart’s story was, in many ways, the beginning of the media holding men in power responsible for their indiscretions.
View this post on Instagram
That said, in the wake of the #MeToo era, why is this a story that should be retold now? Is it due to the irony of how things have changed so little? Is it to make us have sympathy for men like Hart whose dream of becoming president was ripped away from him? The other characters in the film, mainly the people working on Hart’s campaign and a select few journalists that knew Hart personally, acted as though they had a moral dilemma in seeing him be taken down.
While it is probably true that back in 1987 people were split on whether Hart’s affairs should affect his candidacy, it was a hard pill to swallow given today’s political climate. Let’s just say that in this day and age, if an almost presidential candidate was involved in a big sex scandal like this, there would be little or no sympathy for them.
While the final act of ‘Front Runner’ was disappointing, speeding through Hart’s downfall and then ending abruptly, the film was, overall, very good. Most of this is due to Jason Reitman’s crisp and urgent directing, making audiences feel like they were a part of breaking this scandalous story.
View this post on Instagram
What people are really raving about, however, was Jackman’s performance, which was one of his best yet and will likely earn him an Oscar nod. In fact, every single performance in the film was great, and that’s saying a lot because this was a very large cast. J.K. Simmons was brilliant as Hart’s campaign manager Bill Dixon, Vera Farmiga was excellent as Hart’s scorned wife and Sara Paxton gave the most compelling performance of her career as Hart’s mistress.
The question is whether now is the perfect or most inappropriate time to be telling this story? You decide. ‘The Front Runner’ hits select theaters November 6 and nationwide November 21.