LFF 2018 The Front Runner Review
The Front Runner (2018) Film Review from the 62nd Annual London Film Festival, a movie directed by Jason Reitman, starring Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, J. K. Simmons, Alfred Molina, Sara Paxton, Bill Burr and Mamoudou Athie.
In The Front Runner, the character of J. K. Simmons talks of the protagonist payed by Hugh Jackman as a man, who takes out all the garbage out of politics and makes people listen. The film itself fits that description quite well. Your attention is glued to the screen not just because all the terms and complex, boring details have been omitted. The picture’s quick pace, incessant humor and drama and of course – its fine performances also contribute to that.
The simplification of all the behind-the-scenes intrigues surrounding US presidential elections definitely prevents the script from exploring in depth the consequences and reasons for a candidate’s failures and successes. The film is an intriguing depiction of the way the media, the politicians and their teams clash but it only scratches the surface of the problem. However, this will likely fail to make an impression on viewers that are not too passionate about politics.
An Intriguing Plot and a Fascinating Protagonist
The plot is based on a true story and revolves around Gary Hart, the front runner for the presidential elections in 1988, who commits a mistake that begins to undermine his campaign. There are many great supporting performances – Vera Farmiga as the neglected wife of the successful candidate, J. K. Simmons as Hart’s best advisor, Bill Burr as an obnoxious journalist and many others.
The story doesn’t start on a high note. We begin several years before the main events of the plot with a defeat suffered by Hart, which sets the serious half of the overall tone well. Hugh Jackman’s natural charisma and his confident performance make him an ideal casting choice for the protagonist. He is extremely convincing as the strong-willed, intelligent, assuring leader but is equally capable of displaying his vulnerability when the axe comes through the door and his world starts crumbling down around him.
Superb Supporting Performances
Vera Farmiga and J.K. Simmons’ make great use of their limited screen time. Farmiga has rarely been this intense and her sharp expression really works when she turns up the heat to eleven when her husband really starts letting her down. J. K. Simmons is capable of delivering clever comebacks and one-liners like no one else and in this film, he will make you spit out your drink many times over. Apart from that, he also participates in one or two scenes, in which he delivers a number of authoritative speeches, which really showcase the Oscar-winner’s terrific range.
Engrossing but Safe Script
The writing is extremely entertaining and the dialogue remains sharp and hard-hitting for the most part. It will not break any new ground for you and it will also fail to reach some sort of emotional elevation. You get invested in it on a serious enough level for you to be holding your breath at its most intense moments and that is quite respectable. Ultimately, however, the film doesn’t lend you a fresh perspective. When the dust settles and its all over, you just feel like you have just watched a fascinating story that can definitely connect with current real-life events but that’s as far as it goes. The resolution carries some weight but the main character receives a rather clean getaway, which doesn’t really match the reality of nowadays.
The Front Runner is a solid dramatization of a political candidate’s rise and fall that stays away from risks but delivers the thrills and laughs. All the actors do an outstanding job, starting with Hugh Jackman’s more-than-convincing central performance. Vera Farmiga and J. K. Simmons also have a couple of very memorable moments. Director Jason Reitman makes the best of the script, allowing the audience to have a semi-fun, semi-challenging time that makes for a very good watch – good enough for you to wish that the film was better and more complex.
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