“Frost/Nixon” was an excellent movie directed and produced by Hollywood dream team Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. The movie is based on a 2006 play by Peter Morgan. It spent very little time on the actual events of Watergate, instead choosing to delve deeply into David Frost’s effort to get the first interview with Richard Nixon after he resigned the presidency.
Frost was a British television show host with shows in London and Australia. After Nixon resigned, he worked diligently, including putting up his own money to pay for the first interview with Nixon after Watergate.
In the movie, it is a struggle to make the interview happen, as none of the major networks wanted to sponsor it because Frost had paid for the interview and he was not a credible journalist. Frost assembled a team of “crack investigators” to research Nixon and come up with questions about his foreign and domestic policy and, of course, Watergate. Contractually, Watergate was only allowed to take up one of the four taping sessions for the interview. In the first three sessions, Nixon was more masterful at guiding the interview – blocking Frost with long-winded responses that made him sound “presidential.” However, by the fourth session, Frost took control of the situation and succeeded in doing what the judicial system could not: Frost elicited a confessional response and a remorseful apology from the battered president.
The acting in the movie is solid. Michael Sheen gives just enough depth to Frost, but the standout is Frank Langella as Nixon. While I am not a product of that generation, it is easy to study the era and understand why many Americans were upset by the Watergate cover-up by their president. In this movie, Nixon is not vilified, but shown as a remorseful man and Langella elicits sympathy as Nixon.
I liked the movie, it was well directed and well-acted. Whenever one thinks about journalists connected to the Watergate scandal, one automatically thinks about Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, but Frost accomplished more in the aftermath of the issue. Woodward and Bernstein broke the story and Frost wrapped it up.
One does not have to have been a part of the generation that watched Nixon become the first and, so far, only president to ever resign from office to appreciate the movie. The Nixon scandal lives on – when a president is embroiled in scandal, the media dub it with a “-gate” ending. For most people, I would suggest renting this movie or getting it through Netflix. It is a great movie, but one that can be watched on the small screen.