by Philip Price
Director: Jason Reitman
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga & Molly Ephraim
Runtime: 1 hour & 53 minutes
“The Front Runner” is about the birth of tabloid journalism infiltrating credible institutions, but what it’s commenting on is how the media often allows a single moment of someone’s life to encapsulate and define that person’s entire existence given the faceted perspective of how said incident is reported on.
This is a fine truth to examine, especially through the lens of a 1987 scandal where the volume is comparably lower than the 11 today’s media cycle has been ratcheted up to, but the point director Jason Reitman seeks to point out doesn’t always jive with the story he’s telling.
The film makes it pretty clear Hugh Jackman’s (always reliable) Gary Hart was something of a womanizer on the reg and that the affair that outed him wasn’t the only instance of this behavior. Reitman seeks to both make an example of Hart while also garnering empathy for the man, but the idea that the scrutiny or even the manner in which the scrutiny came down upon Hart was unwarranted begins to wain as the bigger picture around the Senator becomes clearer. What the movie gets right is highlighting the ramifications of Hart’s actions on the women around him such as his wife, Lee (Vera Farmiga), his daughter Andrea (Kaitlyn Dever), as well as the woman involved in the affair, Donna (Sara Paxton)-whose line of dialogue, “I did all the things I was supposed to do so men wouldn’t look at me the way you are right now.”-perfectly encapsulates this theme.
While the film has some quarrels about sorting out its question of where the line is between what is interesting and what is important, it must be noted that the roster of character actors in this thing is insane. J.K. Simmons, Josh Brener, Oliver Cooper, Alfred Molina, Mamoudou Athie, Ari Graynor, John Bedford Lloyd, Steve Coulter, Spencer Garrett, Steve Zissis, Bill Burr, Kevin Pollack, Mike Judge, Toby Huss, Courtney Ford, and I’m sure I’m missing others, but among all of these recognizable faces it is Molly Ephraim, who does much of the heavy lifting thematically and gives the film the edge it needs to be heard in today’s climate even if the voice behind it isn’t as firm as it should be.