I saw The Front Runner (Columbia, 11.6) again last night. So well-ordered, smartly written, real-deal…a fastball you have to swing on.
Gary Hart, the would-be Democratic nominee for President in the spring of ’87 whose candidacy was destroyed by the press over a relatively harmless instance of marital infidelity, is so well nailed by Hugh Jackman. In fact the whole cast delivers — Vera Farmiga as Lee Hart, J. K. Simmons as Bill Dixon, Alfred Molina as Ben Bradlee, Sara Paxton as Donna Rice and particularly Mamoudou Athie as A.J. Parker, a diligent Washington Post reporter who covers the Hart campaign.
The Front Runner is about the fall of a flawed but basically decent fellow who was actually rather high-minded when it came to the separation between public and private life. It ends, for sure, on a note of resignation and solemnity. A good man is taken down because there is no private life for a political person and the cameras are everywhere. But 60 seconds after the film ended I was reading about the second sexual misconduct allegation against Brett Kavanaugh, and going “yes!…yes!”
The main difference, of course, is that Hart was merely busted for catting around (i.e., using his power and celebrity to score) while Kavanaugh is being drilled for having twice acted in an abusive and contemptible way with young women while drunk.
(Last night an additional Kavanaugh allegation came from Stormy Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti, who wrote that he is “aware of significant evidence” that Kavanaugh participated in multiple gang rapes while in high school.”)
I love Reitman’s decision to play it chaste in a scene between Jackman and an unseen Paxton aboard the Monkey Business, showing only Jackman as he smiles and flirts. Throughout The Front Runner the viewer is kept at arm’s length, and is never shown anything the least bit titillating. I naturally assumed that the famous color snap of Hart and Rice (with Rice sitting on his lap) would be seen at some point, but it never appears, primarily because the film ends right after Hart collapses his candidacy, and the photo didn’t surface until a week or two later.
I took Jett and Cait to last night’s screening. They’re both around 30, and until last night had never heard of Gary Hart and his campaign calamity.
This morning I participated in a Front Runner breakfast schmoozer at the Crosby Street hotel. Reitman, Jackman, Simmons, Paxton and Athie attended.