THE FRONT RUNNER – Review by Susan Granger

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I don’t recall being as angry at a protagonist as I was watching former Senator Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman) foolishly throw away the opportunity to be President of the United States for an alleged liaison with a woman he’d met in Miami.

This film chronicles the three weeks during 1988 election, when the Senator from Colorado, about whom rumors of infidelity had circulated for years, imploded his political career by inviting Miami Herald reporters to follow him around to see what an uninteresting life he led.

So they trailed him and discovered Donna Rice (Sara Paxon) was flying from Miami to meet him in Washington, D.C., That led to unearthing that infamous photo of Rice sitting on Hart’s lap near the Monkey Business yacht, where they’d met.

When the subsequent scandal caused Hart to withdraw his Presidential bid, it signified a ‘new era’ in predatory political reporting. Previously, the press had ignored the extramarital affairs of FDR, JFK and Lyndon Johnson. And years later, Bill Clinton survived a similar scandal, along with Donald Trump.

Scripted by Matt Bai , author of “All the Truth Is Out” (2014), with Jay Carson and director Jason Reitman, it chronicles the moment when “politics went tabloid,” creating the celebrity culture surrounding the Presidency with Trump as the logical endpoint to what started back then.

Even an actor as appealing as Hugh Jackman cannot make Gary Hart’s lack of judgment palatable, although both Hart and Rice have denied they had an affair. And The Atlantic reported that dying Lee Atwater, Republican rival George H.W. Bush’s campaign manager, had set Hart up.

“Gary is a private person by nature, but also a believer that there should be a separation between the public and private lives of a politician,” says Jackman. “We’re all human. We’ve all got flaws, but what level of flaws will you accept?”

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Front Runner” is a fast-paced, yet frustrating 5, chronicling the downfall of a promising politician.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.