Review: The Front Runner

Review: The Front Runner

28th January 2019 Off By Ewan Gleadow

Gary Hart may not be a name you’re at all familiar with.

Before viewing The Front Runner, neither were we; all we knew is that it was Hugh Jackman in a political drama and that was more than enough to pique our interests. 

There’s an incredible amount of detail to take in from The Front Runner in a very brief window of time. The story is packed to the brim with information, most of it presumably factual. Biopics have a tendency to twist the truth for the sake of making a much more interesting plot or pace, but for The Front Runner that doesn’t seem to happen.  

Senator Gary Hart was a sure-fire contender for the Presidency of the United States, and it all came crashing down in a matter of weeks. Director Jason Reitman (Tully, Thank You For Smoking) does a tremendous job in capturing the breakdown Gary Hart put himself, his family and his campaign through. 

Reitman’s camera work is possibly the best part of the entire movie. It’s visually stunning, with enough detail to make his direction notable, but not enough to detract from the story.

But in that lies the main problem. The story isn’t all that interesting.

Its political relevance today noted, it doesn’t really have all that much else going for it. We have a story all about Gary Hart but the most important aspects of the story are contained in scene where Hart doesn’t appear.

Presumably this is because of Hart’s real-world reaction – locking himself away and focusing on his campaign, rather than leading himself into tabloid disaster. With Jackman’s strange absence, it would’ve helped so much more if the supporting cast were anywhere near interesting. 

Even notably solid actors such as J.K. Simmons and Vera Farmiga feel wasted in very small roles that could’ve been played by anyone. To prove that point, Bill Burr has a minor role for reasons we simply cannot fathom: it’s reminiscent of Louis C.K. in American Hustle and Seth Rogen in Steve Jobs – if anything, it feels like they’re being used for name value alone, which is a shame given how great these performers are in usual circumstances.  

However, Jackman was a great choice for the role and leading performance as Gary Hart is possibly his best work in a very long time. The lack of screentime aside, it’s a very strong performance capturing the manic meltdown of a once-successful campaign.

Most know him as the superhero Wolverine and a smaller number will know him from Les Miserables; it’s rare that we get to see Jackman in a prominent dramatic role, so it’s always a tremendous pleasure to see, especially when he’s so well-cast and suited to the role. 

An Oscar bait movie if we’ve ever seen one, The Front Runner does enough to leave a vaguely lasting impression, however its long-term impact is dubious at best. Picking up not a single nomination or nod for anyone involved, it could be a movie that is destined to be a forgotten gem in the years to come.