The Front Runner Review: It’s no clear front runner, but it’s still a story worth seeing
Telling the story of how Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman), the true front runner 1988 Presidential race until a scandal had been reported of Hart having an affair, The Front Runner is a relatively enjoyable biopic that has too much going on from time to time.
When delving into the personal and political life of Jackman’s Hart, the film is at its best as Jackman puts in an excellent performance as the former Colorado senator. Jackman captures Hart’s strong-minded ability to discuss politics and genuine charm that made him such a beloved candidate. With each discussion with journalists and scenes that shows Hart to be a representation of the everyday man, with Hart even participating in an axe-throwing competition, viewers start to feel something for Hart when things take a turn for the worst.
However, when the film takes this turn, there is almost too much going on that it’s hard to keep track of who is who. The film also decides to delve into how Hart’s supposed scandal affected how political journalism would be conducted since journalists at the Miami Herald stowed away in a car to get photographs of Donna Rice (Sara Paxton) coming out of Hart’s townhouse.
It’s nice discussion to have on-screen and I actually think it’s one of the strongest parts of the film as I still think about the morality and ethics behind this story. It also touches on how politics became pop culture and how this story changed how politics would be viewed forever. However, even with these strong themes, there is no memorable character to attach it to. This part is so focused on members of Hart’s staff and other journalists covering Hart’s campaign and none of them are even a little memorable.
There’s just so many characters to keep track of and most of them of the other characters, outside of Jackman’s Hart, have trouble standing out. Even solid performances from J.K. Simmons, as Hart campaign manager, and Vera Farmiga, as Hart’s wife, are total lost in a sea of other actors.
The film also struggles to pick which side it wants to take on Hart’s story and it makes the film feel less impactful and more like a headache. It gives fair light to both sides and the story does feel like an interesting mystery, but this kind of back and forth becomes a little tiring. Especially considering that more evidence has come out about this case recently so the film even could feel a little outdated.
The Front Runner is basically held together by a great performance by Jackman and some solid messaging about ethical journalism, while the rest of the film can feel kind of lost. It is not to say that the film doesn’t have any entertaining or learning value, but in a short time the film will become more and more forgettable.