In the political thriller based on true events The Front Runner we see the rise and fall of a promising presidential candidate that can only take place in the USA. We reveal more about this in our review.
The Plot Summary
In 1988, Senator Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman) is the great hope for young Democratic voters and is therefore considered the leading candidate in the presidential primary. He is smart, charismatic and interested in the concerns and wishes of those around him. But then, of all things, an extramarital affair with the young Donna Rice (Sara Paxton) causes him to falter and his election campaign is about to end. For the first time in American politics, tabloid journalism and political journalism are merging – and Senator Hart is in danger of not only losing the race for president, but also his wife Lee (Vera Farmiga), who is reporting on the media from home has to watch her husband being thrown to the press…
The Front Runner Movie explanation of the ending
Nowadays it is self-evident that politicians and therefore also the reporting press throw everything into the balance in order to either put themselves in a better light in a duel with their counterparts or, alternatively, to increase the number of readers or viewers. That was not always so. For a long time there was a strict separation between tabloid and political journalism, which ensured that only what was relevant to the public was made public. There were simply no personal mudslingings back then. That changed suddenly during the 1988 US election campaign, when Gary Hart, who was considered the favorite by many, stumbled upon a private scandal. His love affair with a young employee of his own entourage was made public and exploited by a journalist who had previously been rebuffed when he asked private questions, so that a few weeks were enough to turn the former top candidate into a failed political personality. Director Jason Reitman (“Tully”) tells this story on the fine line between intimacy and distance; While he leaves the entire assessment of these events to his viewer, he devotes himself to the events from as diverse a perspective as possible. This makes Gary Hart one of the most multi-layered and complex film characters of 2019 and offends the viewer in a way that doesn’t have to hurt at all but remains in the memory for a long time.
Presidential candidate Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman) is confronted by two journalists in front of his home.
On the one hand, Jason Reitman and his co-authors Matt Bai and Jay Carson (both of whom wrote episodes of the acclaimed political series “House of Cards”) dissect their eponymous top candidate with a close eye for human depths – both on the side of the main character and on them that of the reporting press. On the other hand, Reitman’s thriller drama never takes on the emotional weight of comparable genre films. In short: The Front Runner is one thing above all: extremely entertaining. This is primarily due to the complex character of the pro- or antagonist, depending on the interpretation, and his actor. Hugh Jackman (“Greatest Showman”) embodies the extremely charismatic presidential candidate with unmistakable charm. Hardly anyone is more suitable for the role of Gary Hart than the Australian, who is brimming with esprit. Only when he perfectly fills the favorite position of the seemingly certain winner due to his charisma can The Front Runner really exploit his high emotional potential. When Hart’s dalliance with his colleague comes to light, he still remains the smart model politician. The extent to which his private misstep also influences the overall perception of him as a person is ultimately shown not only by his character environment on the screen, but also by each viewer himself.
Is Gary Hart a pitiable victim of the press, or is the downfall of his career due to the infidelity actually serving him right? In order to get closer to answering this question, The Front Runner does not necessarily focus on the political circus. Instead, the script focuses mainly on Hart’s immediate environment, which includes not only his advisors and employees (the consequences of Hart’s actions for them are unfortunately only touched on superficially later on), but above all his family. For how Hart’s daughter Andrea (Kaitlyn Dever, “Detroit”) becomes the hunted in her everyday life from now on, even though she actually has nothing to do with her father’s guilt, Reitman doesn’t find any new motives, but it is above all the very careful examination of the marriage between Gary and Lee, for which the The director lets his full sensitivity for interpersonal nuances play out. So he never pushes the cuckolded wife into a victim position, while he also never tries to defend the actions of the cheating husband. Instead, he portrays both Lee Hart and Gary as normal married couples whose arguments are unintentionally brought to the outside world by circumstances. This means that both of them not only have to fear for their private happiness, but also for their reputation, which gives the whole thing an exciting dimension. And without being staged as a hysterical War of the Roses, The Front Runner gains additional emotionality because it is simply quite pleasant to watch two absolutely rational people as they continue to desperately try to maintain that same rationality.
Hart answers questions and answers from the journalists present at a press conference.
With her reserved, but no less strong acting, “Conjuring” star Vera Farmiga shapes The Front Runner just as much as the well-known supporting actors. First up is JK Simmons (“Whiplash”) because with his honest and researching manner, which here and there goes overboard in his choice of words, he always openly says things that everyone suspects behind closed doors anyway. As a result, the shock of these unprecedented events collides with a comedy that does not rely on punchlines or deliberately written gags, let alone slapstick, but rather on a reserved form of situational comedy. Ultimately, Jason Reitman, whose script is based on the acclaimed factual novel by Matt Bai, who also contributed to the screenplay, only takes part in a short period of spiraling maneuvers. And it goes without saying that these can hardly be pinned down to a single emotion. In the last third there is a real thriller touch. Hart’s efforts to save his own face and actively stand up for himself and rebel against the press are particularly exciting when you don’t know the outcome of the events. The largely unspectacular production is entirely at the service of the film. Cinematographer Eric Steelberg (“Up in the Air”) and composer Rob Simonsen (“Love, Simon”) prepare an unspectacular stage for their leading candidate on which Hugh Jackman can shine without much effort around him.
Conclusion: In both exciting and emotional ways, The Front Runner examines the first case in American politics in which a senator was torn apart by the press due to a private misstep. Director Jason Reitman consciously assumes the sober position of the viewer. The viewer has to judge for himself.
The Front Runner can be seen in selected USA cinemas from January 17th.