I can’t call “The Front Runner” a political masterpiece, because of how bland its narrative is. It recreates the story of how Senator Gary Hart ruined his chances at becoming President, because of an affair of his. I wasn’t too familiar with him, although Hugh Jackman gives a fine performance as Hart. But I wanted more than just a slogan. I wanted depth and analysis, something that made “The Post” and “All the President’s Men” political classics.
The movie starts off weak and bland, as Hart becomes the front runner for the 1988 election, but picks up when we meet two Miami Herald reporters (Steve Zissis and Bill Burr), who spot Hart with another woman named Donna Rice (Sara Paxton). They post the article, and things spin out of control. Hart’s wife Lee (Vera Farmiga) is trapped in her house with the paparazzi outside; all Donna wanted to do was work for Gary’s campaign; and Gary struggles to keep his sanity.
The cast also includes JK Simmons as Gary’s campaign manager named Bill, who thinks Billy is a child’s name, and Alfred Molina as a Washington Post editor. These two characters are both underwritten, although I read Simmons more than Molina. And you get a variety of supporting roles from Mike Judge, Oliver Cooper, Molly Ephraim, Kevin Pollak, and Kaitlyn Denver.
Based on Matt Bai’s book “All the Truth is Out,” and written and directed by Jason Reitman (who did a better job with “Tully” earlier this year), “The Front Runner” offers a fine performance from Jackman as Gary Hart in the ways he brings out the character, and how his character adapts to almost any situation. He’s the real star of the show, but the movie ends up being standard.
Most of the supporting characters, including Lee and Donna, are given bland treatments, and I wanted more from them. The first half hour is lackluster, even though Simmons offered some funny dialogue. And as thrilled as I was with the premise, I ended up losing the inspiration.
This is a well-intended but underachieved political affair.
Expands Nationwide November 21