THE FRONT RUN­NER: The pres­i­dent that never was

Montreal Times - - News -

Does any­one re­mem­ber Gary Hart? Hailed as a new star in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, some even com­pared him to John Kennedy, a sen­a­tor, de­feated by Wal­ter Mon­dale in the 1984 Demo­cratic pri­mary, by 1988; how­ever, he seemed un­beat­able. That, un­til he showed his weak­ness: dur­ing a visit to

Mi­ami he met a woman with whom he even­tu­ally had a re­la­tion­ship. The af­fair was re­vealed by The Mi­ami Her­ald, and from that mo­ment on it be­came the fo­cus of the cam­paign.As a re­sult, Hart's run for the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion and the Amer­i­can pres­i­dency, and even his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer died at that mo­ment.

“The Front Run­ner," is a film di­rected by Ja­son Reit­man, writ­ten by Matt Bai, Jay Car­son, and Ja­son Reit­man, and based on Bai's "All the Truth is Out." It is not ex­actly great cin­ema: the nar­ra­tive is at times con­fus­ing, es­pe­cially if you are not fa­mil­iar with some of the play­ers and his­tor­i­cal events of that pe­riod (the vast ma­jor­ity of movie view­ers). It is at times too lit­er­ary as well, a prob­lem that many movie adap­ta­tions from books have, how­ever as a well-doc­u­mented flash­back at one of the most in­trigu­ing and para­dox­i­cal mo­ments in re­cent Amer­i­can his­tory, this film is of the high­est in­ter­est.

Hart (Hugh Jack­man) was an ar­tic­u­late politi­cian with new ideas that mo­bi­lized young peo­ple, also in­ter­ested in as­sur­ing peace he Front run­ner Gary Hart was seen as a star

politi­cian in 1988, un­til his dra­matic fall

had even en­ter­tained the idea of invit­ing then-So­viet leader Mikhail Gor­bachev to his in­au­gu­ra­tion. All seemed set for a smooth walk into the White House af­ter the 1988 elec­tion. His team led by a savvy Bill Dixon (J.K. Sim­mons) had a well-or­ga­nized cam­paign, leav­ing no room for any set­back and fo­cused on the econ­omy, the en­vi­ron­ment, ed­u­ca­tion, the three E that Hart em­pha­sized. Ex­cept that there was no con­tin­gency plan for the sen­a­tor's un­for­tu­nate faux pas, the night when he in­vited Donna Rice (Sara Pax­ton) to his town­house in Wash­ing­ton, jour­nal­ists avid for juicy news to re­port found out about the af­fair and re­vealed it. As ex­pected, Hart's wife Lee (Vera Farmiga) was jus­ti­fi­ably up­set about this oc­cur­rence, and now the team had to fo­cus on sal­vaging the can­di­dacy. Hart's first line of de­fence was to refuse to dis­cuss the is­sue on the ba­sis that it was his pri­vate life, ir­rel­e­vant in a po­lit­i­cal con­text, he even re­sponded by ques­tion­ing the ethics of jour­nal­ists for go­ing af­ter that type of is­sues more proper of a gos­sip tabloid. Dixon, how­ever, would have a per­ti­nent an­swer to that ar­gu­ment: once you are in the pub­lic eye, be it as a Hol­ly­wood star or a politi­cian, you have no pri­vate life.

Of course, see­ing the whole is­sue in ret­ro­spect now, it looks that all was ter­ri­bly hyp­o­crit­i­cal. In­deed the sex­ual life of a po­lit­i­cal leader has no rel­e­vance in his or her own po­lit­i­cal ca­pac­ity (or lack of it) as it was later clearly demon­strated by Bill Clin­ton. And es­pe­cially these days, when ev­ery­body knows that the cur­rent White House oc­cu­pant had been sex­u­ally in­volved with a porn ac­tress and with other women of "ill-re­pute," as one of my old teach­ers used to say.

"The Front Run­ner" will be en­joyed by those in­ter­ested in re­cent Amer­i­can his­tory and pol­i­tics.

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