The Front Runner | Chicago Reader

The Front Runner

Only two flaws mar this energetic, wry drama about Colorado senator Gary Hart's failed 1988 bid for the U.S. presidency. First, although Hugh Jackman, one of our most charismatic actors, nails the candidate's lofty vision, seriousness of purpose, confidence, and occasional wonky streak, he surprisingly fails to project the tremendous sparkle that made Hart a liberal Democratic crusader in the JFK tradition. Second, perhaps not trusting the viewer's intelligence, writer-director Jason Reitman (Up in the Air, Juno) and cowriter Jay Carson (House of Cards) repeatedly belabor the point that the implosion of Hart's campaign, after his liaison with model Donna Rice (Sara Paxton) was exposed, marked a turning point in American social history. Adapted from Matt Bai's bestseller All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid, the movie has a seductively dishy feel as Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee (Alfred Molina) and Miami Herald publisher Bob Martindale (a composite character played by Kevin Pollak) compete for a big story while redrawing the boundaries between gossip and investigative reporting. But arguably the best supporting performances come from Mamoudou Athie as Post scribe AJ Parker (also a composite) and Steve Zissis as real-life Herald newshound Tom Fiedler, two dogged correspondents caught in the fray, who at the same time propel the media tsunami that turns Hart into late-night TV monologue fodder. Most fascinating is the film's subtext that the blame for our present cultural morass doesn't rest solely with politicians or the media; in a way, they're only gladiators, thrashing to amuse an enervated citizenry that demands entertainment 24/7. With Vera Farmiga, J.K. Simmons, and Molly Ephraim.

Credits

Director:

  • Jason Reitman

Cast:

  • Hugh Jackman
  • Vera Farmiga
  • J.K. Simmons
  • Alfred Molina
  • Mamoudou Athie
  • Josh Brener
  • Bill Burr
  • Oliver Cooper
  • Chris Coy
  • Kaitlyn Dever
  • Tommy Dewey
  • Molly Ephraim
  • Spencer Garrett
  • Ari Graynor
  • Toby Huss
  • Mike Judge
  • Alex Karpovsky
  • Jennifer Landon
  • John Bedford Lloyd
  • Mark O'Brien
  • Sara Paxton
  • Kevin Pollak
  • Steve Zissis

Writers:

  • Jason Reitman
  • Jay Carson
  • Matt Bai

Producers:

  • Jason Reitman
  • Helen Estabrook
  • Aaron Gilbert
  • Matt Bai
  • Jay Carson
  • Michael Beugg
  • Jason Blumenfeld
  • Steven Thibault
  • Brenda Gilbert
  • David Gendron
  • Ali Jazayeri
  • Jason Cloth
  • Chris Conover
  • Edward Carpezzi

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