The Front Runner

The Front Runner


The week America went tabloid.

American Senator Gary Hart's (Hugh Jackman) 1988 presidential campaign is derailed by scandal in this political biopic from four-time Oscar nominee Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air). Vera Farmiga and J.K. Simmons co-star.... More

"Having lost the democratic ticket to Walter Mondale in 1984, Gary Hart (Jackman) made a triumphant return to candidacy in 1987, at a moment when his party was desperate to wrestle power back from the Republicans after two terms of Reagan. Hart had everything going for him: intelligence, charisma, and experience as a lawyer, campaign manager, and senator, not to mention an ideal First Lady in wife Lee (Farmiga). But everything starts to crumble when word circulates that Hart is a womaniser - a rumour quickly followed by reports that he had an affair with Donna Rice (Sara Paxton)." (Toronto International Film Festival)Hide

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Flicks Review

A lot can happen in three weeks. That’s the time frame on offer in Jason Reitman’s (Juno, Up in the Air) real life political fable. Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman), the front runner in question, was poised to become President in 1988—he was the leading Democratic candidate and polls had him thumping the eventual winner George H. W. Bush. But Gary was what older Kiwis call a bit of a rooter, a hard dog to keep on the porch, etc. To others he’s a classic #MeToo type, and that tension is central to the film.... More

As has been well documented, it’s the wife, (Vera Farmiga) and the mistress (Sara Paxton) who take the lion’s share of the pain in these scenarios and the latter is practically thrown to the wolves in the most intense moment of all. Poor old Gary is in such a deep state of denial it’s hard not to think of Trump or perhaps our own Jami-Lee Ross, though of course Mr Hart had some actual vision and a famously lovely head of hair, said to be worth 4 percentage points in the polls.

Hart is convinced that one’s private life is just that and turns down cheesy photo ops—except for his own highly orchestrated propaganda. He bemoans the changing morality of America as it slips into the tabloid abyss but is unable to contemplate sexual politics and his own abuse of power.

Period media is seamlessly meshed into this slow moving political train-wreck, including a golden moment from Johnny Carson. The late 80s recreations are spot on, especially in the brilliant opening scene full of video tape and ciggies.

It never delivers a killer blow however and Jackman’s Hart feels a tad sluggish to be sure, but there’s much to admire, thanks mostly to an incredibly solid supporting cast. As ever, Reitman reveals a deft hand when it comes to interpersonal dynamics and the mordant humour that resides in the everyday failures of our existence.Hide

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The Press Reviews

  • Given the limitations of the role, Jackman delivers one of his finest performances. Full Review

  • The "Juno" director's got his groove back. Full Review

  • It's not only an enjoyable watch filled with terrific actors, but also that it's a movie that will have you talking afterwards. It has ideas that are worth discussing and still incredibly relevant. Full Review

  • The Front Runner captures the moral dilemmas and changing attitudes inspired by the Hart story with sprawling, Altmanesque brio. Full Review

  • There's an authenticity underpinning the portrayal of events in The Front Runner that lifts it above the less-than-groundbreaking set-up. Full Review

  • A tip-top piece of entertainment starring Hugh Jackman as Hart and Vera Farmiga as his wife, Lee, that is as significant as it is enjoyable. Full Review

  • Reitman rewinds to that 1988 moment when Gary Hart's adultery took presidential politics tabloid. But not even Hugh Jackman as Hart can sell the argument that personal weakness doesn't stain public character in the era of #MeToo. Full Review

  • Whether Jackman knew that was what he was portraying, or whether he thought he was giving a performance of a genuinely contrite man who deserved some public sympathy is completely up for debate. Full Review