Friday, December 05, 2008


Capsule review: An ably-produced movie that left a sour taste in my mouth. The performances are fine, with Frank Langella only over-doing the Nixon thing once or twice. The problem with the movie isn't the movie, it's the story that Ron Howard is trying to tell: He literally has its characters say "I want to give Nixon the trial he never got" or something like that. In this retelling, Frost is a prosecutor, the camera is a judge, and the audience is the jury. But dammit, the state and the people are two different things, and humiliating Nixon is not the same thing as prosecuting him. One may make us feel better, but the other actually would have served justice.

At the end of the movie, Howard has a narrator say "Nixon certainly never got the rehabilitation he wanted..." which is just claptrap. The man got his rehabilitation in spades, and even today it's considered bad form to talk about Nixon without mentioning all his wonderful "accomplishments" in foreign policy -- a sin the film itself is guilty of. It's like praising Otto von Bismarck because he helped start a welfare state. Or for that matter praising George W. Bush for his work saving lives.

Ron Howard, of all people, isn't equipped to make a movie calling a spade a spade -- properly noting that the Nixon era constitutes the failure of the US constitution as total as can be imagined.

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