The Front Run­ner

The Guardian - G2 - - Games - PB

★★☆☆☆ Dir Ja­son Reit­man Star­ring Hugh Jack­man, Vera Farmiga, Sara Pax­ton Length 113 mins Cert 15

Is there any point in re­mem­ber­ing Gary Hart? He was the Democrats’ plau­si­ble US pres­i­den­tial can­di­date in 1988, the front run­ner who aban­doned his cam­paign af­ter press al­le­ga­tions of an ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fair. Was he a lost prince of progressive Amer­i­can pol­i­tics?

It’s not easy to tell from Ja­son Reit­man’s eva­sive movie, star­ring Hugh Jack­man in a hair­piece as Hart. The film con­trives to show its hero as a tire­some and sanc­ti­mo­nious fig­ure while pi­ously avert­ing its eyes from his mis­de­meanour, the one thing that makes Hart dra­mat­i­cally in­ter­est­ing – his sup­posed sex­ual en­counter with would-be cam­paign worker Donna Rice. The movie shows Hart go­ing to the party aboard the boat in Mi­ami and meet­ing her, but solemnly de­clines to show her face or what pre­cisely went on.

Even­tu­ally, af­ter a solid hour, Donna (a forth­right per­for­mance from Sara Pax­ton) is fi­nally pro­duced on cam­era, tear­fully telling her story to Hart’s care­worn spin doc­tors as the me­dia storm breaks. It feels point­less and su­per­cil­ious to have with­held her pres­ence as if the movie it­self has been forced to ac­knowl­edge her ex­is­tence, just like Hart’s tense cam­paign team.

Jack­man por­trays Hart as an un­re­laxed, un­smil­ing fig­ure, with­out the charm or buoy­ancy of his other, re­cent per­for­mances. Vera Farmiga has the thank­less and un­der­writ­ten role of his loyal wife Lee, and JK Sim­mons plays his gruff cam­paign man­ager. To­gether, they all in­habit a world chock-full of man­ner­isms bor­rowed from Robert Alt­man’s Nashville and Alan J Pakula’s All The Pres­i­dent’s Men, un­con­nected to any real dra­matic en­ergy or po­lit­i­cal point.

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