TIFF18 Review: THE FRONT RUNNER – Pam Grady

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Welcome to the worst episode of West Wing, ever, as directed by Jason Reitman trying to channel Robert Altman. Never has Altman’s signature overlapping dialogue and large, panoramic casts been so ill-used than in this pallid distillation of what went wrong with Colorado Senator Gary Hart’s 1988 presidential campaign. Hugh Jackman plays the candidate as a policy geek and nature lover who mischievously makes the press hike his state’s Red Rocks to announce his candidacy. The Democratic nomination appears to be his for the taking until a slighted Miami Herald reporter decides to investigate family man Hart’s personal life. Jackman never captures the charisma that made Hart such a formidable candidate. Reitman tries to present every facet of the story—the public and behind-the-scenes campaign, the reporters covering it, newsroom editors determining the direction of the story, Hart’s life at home with wife Lee (Vera Farmiga), the dalliance with Donna Rice (Sara Paxton) that exploded into lurid headlines—in scenes jam-packed with wonkish dialogue. But the drama is sluggish and limp, hardly a compelling spin on contemporary US history.

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Pam Grady

Pam Grady is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Box Office, FilmStew, SF State Magazine and other publications. Her career began at Reel.com where she was an editor and staff critic. She is currently President of the San Francisco Bay Area Film Critics Circle.