Like so many of my generation, I believed, in my very soul that Richard Nixon was, with all apologies to Keith Olbermann, the worst person in the world. So, no one was more surprised than I when, one late summer evening, I almost bumped into the man, walking with daughter Julie, her husband and a secret service guy or two, on Lexington Avenue. And I was thrilled. They, of course, strolled on by. I stood, shocked into stillness, with a big, stupid grin on my face. Oh, my God. It was Nixon, in the flesh. Wow.
This many years later, the President who had to resign still remains an enigmatic legend. Was he really so smart? And, if so, how could he have been so dumb? Those are just some of the questions this award winning play, and now film, try to answer. But, under Ron Howard’s direction, this movie is more successful at looking at other issues: endurance, celebrity and the intricacies of the interview process to name a few.
After all, the story here is really about two men: gadabout TV personality David Frost, a glitzy performer possibly way over his head taking on the disgraced President, a man as desperate for money as he was for appreciation. Michael Sheen does a nice job as Frost, he is ably supported by the wonderful Oliver Platt and Sam Rockwell, but it’s Frank Langella who delivers a real tour de force. His Nixon is cagy, vulnerable and almost kind of sympathetic. Almost.