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Frost/Nixon Captures History and Captivates Audiences

Michelle Fordice | Sunday, January 25, 2009

“Frost/Nixon” deserves its Oscar nomination for Best Picture. The Academy Awards have for the most part become associated with rewarding ‘serious’ films, but “Frost/Nixon” delivers on all levels, producing not only an introspective into a particular moment in time, but also some wonderful performances, entertaining characters, and an understated commentary on how we view history. “Frost/Nixon” tells the story of the 1977 interviews between David Frost (Michael Sheen) and President Nixon (Frank Langella). Frost is a mostly disrespected British talk show host who tempts Nixon into his first post-Watergate interview with a $600,000 appearance fee. He pays this out of his own pocket, since the networks didn’t trust him to take on Nixon, famous for his stonewalling and political savvy, without supervision. Frost and his team of researchers seek to draw the apology out of Nixon that never came after his resignation as president. Nixon is hoping to recover and reestablish himself on the political scene. The film focuses in on these two men, capturing their strengths and their insecurities. Nixon is painted as a man who is intelligent and genuinely concerned, but arrogant and incapable at interacting socially with people. Frost, on the other hand, is a social butterfly and ladies man who can’t quite leap the hurdle and become respected. In a way, this interview is the last chance for both men. The actors excelled in their roles, which they first developed for the stage play, also titled “Frost/Nixon.” Frank Langella, now nominated for Best Actor, is amazing as Nixon, capturing not only the man’s physical characteristics but his personality. Langella has the challenging task of portraying this smart, confident man at the lowest moment in his life, adrift and unsure of what to do with himself. Depending on taste, American audiences will recognize Michael Sheen from either “The Queen” or the Underworld series. Michael Sheen is both blessed and cursed to frequently be placed next to dynamite actors, like Langella and Helen Mirren. He excels in his roles, but has the disadvantage of being forgotten in the rush. As David Frost, he has to contain Frost’s natural extravagance in a way that is both true and relatable to the audience, and does so successfully. “Frost/Nixon” is also a quiet commentary on how we view history, especially for those of us who weren’t alive in the 1970s to see the initial interviews. It is a film based off of a play based on a set of interviews between two people doing their best to spin the results in their favor. Peter Morgan, who wrote the original play and adapted it for film, has made a career out of capturing the spirit of historical events, even if they are not wholly accurate. Writing the scripts for films such as “The Queen,” “The Last King of Scotland,” “The Other Boleyn Girl,” and “The Deal,” he has learned to packaged and dramatize real life events. Throughout the film, the characters talk about how the audience will perceive the interviews and how important is that the people involved not only understand the history of what actually happened, but how to use television and the power of the perfect close-up. It’s a statement of how history is captured and produced for us to consume at many levels.