For starters let’s get a few things cleared out first. The movie Frost/Nixon is a dramatization of events with a lot of cinematic license being taken by the filmmakers to make it a little more interesting than it actually was in reality. Case in point, various articles on the internet have pointed out that unlike as depicted in the movie, David Frost never actually got Richard Nixon to confess about anything in his interviews. If anything, whatever Nixon actually told in the interviews was a ‘carefully pre-planned confession’. So if viewers actually end up thinking that Nixon confessed after having watched this movie, well, they were wrong.
Having said that it must be noted that this movie is one all American history buffs would really enjoy. I had seen and heard enough about the Watergate Scandal over the years, but had never really gotten around to reading up enough about it to figure out what the scandal actually was all about. Being a quizzer myself, it was also a must-know trivia that Richard Nixon till date remains the only American President to resign the office of his own accord. And I pretty much did most of my research on this scandal before I actually watched this movie so that I am able to grasp the contents of the movie in its entirety.
The movie itself is a cinematic adaptation of a British play of the same name, and it is a dramatized account of the Frost/Nixon interviews of 1977. The events took place in 1977, two years after Nixon had resigned from the presidency and was recovering from illness in California. David Frost, a British television talk show host who was desperately looking to regain lost glory in American television happens to catch Nixon’s resignation speech on TV and wonders what a series of interviews or talks with the former president might do to his career. He then gets in touch with Nixon’s publicist, Swifty Lazar and convinces him that these interviews might just be the thing to get the former president back in public memory.
Nixon agrees to do these interviews for sum of $600,000, but this in turn becomes the only reason that American news networks refuse to broadcast them as they did not believe in what they called ‘checkbook journalism’, a fancy term for ‘paid interviews’. Frost then goes ahead and funds the project personally with a few friends of his. He also recruits James Reston Jr and Bob Zelnick as researchers to this project of his which provides him valuable inputs into how to structure and conduct these interviews in a more meaningful manner.
What follows in the interviews can then be described as a ‘cat and mouse’ game where Nixon clearly wins the first 3 of the 4 rounds of interviews. Nixon completely bomards Frost with his style of answering questions, and his unique ability to turn all answers and questions into self-serving rhetoric. In fact, the movie depicts some of the answers in a light where Nixon turns out to be projected as the messiah of the American people around the world, which was miles away from what actually Frost and his team were trying to depict him as.
Am not going to give away the ending of the movie, and how Frost finally manages to outwit the former president as it will take away considerable fun from actually watching the movie. But I will dare say that anybody who watches this movie will not end up being disappointed. Even though the theme itself is reasonably serious and is based on actual events, the director Ron Howard and the screenwriter Peter Morgan make the entire proceedings on screen interesting enough to watch it in one go.
Frank Langella as Nixon and Michael Sheen as David Frost have put in impressive performances which is exemplified by Langella’s Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Although I personally haven’t seen Richard Nixon in action, Roger Ebert (noted movie critic) mentions in one of his interviews that what works for the movie is that the actors don’t try to mimic these characters, but try to embody them which makes the movie a little more believable.
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