Any good democracy or republic, or any institution in servitude to the public, is only as good as a diligent press, to keep these bodies into account. But over the years, many in the public feel that the free media may have overstepped its mark, and is publishing more indecent and unnecessarily evasive details, abusing their rights for a quick profit. In 2018, a film explored this murky issue by framing it against the true-life story of how a politician’s private affairs came crashing down in The Front Runner.
Democratic nominee Gary Hart looks poised to take the party’s nomination and become a challenger to the seemingly insurmountable tide of the Reagan Revolution in the upcoming 1988 election. One night would change all that when reporters catch wind that the happily married Hart may just be having an affair. Whether to pursue this lead or respect Hart’s privacy causes some controversy as this is an issue that could affect the election and the relationship of the press for many years to come. The two sides privately and publicly butt heads, as the story puts pressure on the campaign. For the potential leader of the free world, what exactly is fair game for public knowledge?
I don’t think it is intentional how much this film reminds me of the critically acclaimed T.V. series Tanner ‘88 (and the similar in scope the 90s campaign satire Primary Colors). The focus on the backroom politicising and hyper-focused efficiency of the Campaign machine is a thrill to watch. We also get the same treatment on the other side in the offices of the newspapers, although a lot of films have before and since shown us similar scenes.
Australian Hugh Jackman bears a resemblance of 80s era Hart, capturing his charisma, intelligence and reminding modern audiences why he was the front runner from the get-go. Countered with Vera Farmiga as his wife Lee Hart. The onscreen talent does not stop here, with the likes J.K. Simmons is a blast as the campaign manager. Alfred Molina adds a dramatic flair as the editor of The Post, Ben Bradlee. Even the likes of Mike Judge showing up. Though the film takes some with some fictional perspectives, most of the characters are the ones that were involved in the fateful event that challenged the first amendment.
The Front Runner combines subtle humour, good acting and heavy issues to deliver this portrait of a promising campaign coming down and provokes discussion about a controversial case of The presses right to publish vs a politician’s right to privacy. It is a debate where both sides have a point, and your opinion may come down to which style of politics you subscribe to. The excellent cast makes compelling cases for both sides of the issue and the look inside and outside the process is insightful, especially to those who live outside the states. If you are looking for a political diversion, The Front Runner might be your best candidate.
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