Frost/Nixon

 
(i)

 

Talky, play-based political drama sheds light on history.
  • Review Date: December 3, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 122 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

A man takes on a political giant and manages neither to applaud nor completely vilify him -- but rather to show him in all his complexity. At first, he appears fairly cavalier but soon enough finds a sense of purpose.

Violence

The movie's central dynamic is a verbal, not physical, joust. But some archival footage used in the film depicts men, women, and children being killed and maimed in Vietnam. Some yelling/screaming.

Sex

Mild ogling of one female character. A man wakes up next to a woman who appears to be naked, though no sensitive body parts are seen. A man asks another if he has "fornicated."

Language

"Hell," "damn," "bitch," and, toward the end, a number of "f--k"s.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some smoking and drinking in social situations.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that although kids may not be clamoring to see this talky, fairly intense political thriller, it serves as an informative introduction for teens (and adults) who want to know more about Watergate and how it brought down a sitting president. That said, the movie isn't 100 percent representative of real-life events, so more background/research may be needed. The main content of concern is a fair bit of swearing (mostly in the second half) and some heated back and forth between characters. There's also some archival footage from Vietnam, some social drinking and smoking, and a little bit of ogling/innuendo.

What's the story?

In 1977, British TV producer/presenter David Frost (Michael Sheen) sat down with Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) -- easily one of the most controversial presidents in American history -- for a 28-hour tete-a-tete. Villified by media critics for not being a serious journalist (one character describes him acrimoniously as a "TV show host" who pays for the interview, no less) and unable to wrangle investors, Frost stakes his reputation and cash on his ability make the sit-down a momentous TV event. To do so, he must elicit a confession from Nixon, whose scandal-tinged resignation is now three years behind him. And the president has his own agenda, too: preserving what's left of his legacy. Two men, one victor. Who will it be?

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Director Ron Howard (working off a script penned by The Queen's Peter Morgan) keeps a steady hand at the tiller, balancing wonky political material with finely tuned dramatic pacing and framing. FROST/NIXON sets up the talks as if they were a boxing match, with Frost as the charismatic but overwhelmed fighter in one corner, and Nixon morphing from cautious and confident to cornered in the other. It's a power face-off, and Frost seems poised for victory. But is it a victory when your opponent allows you to punch him right on the nose? Or is it his victory for choosing to lose? As depicted, the interview humanizes Nixon, and the nation finally gets a denouement -- thanks to him. And Nixon, in the end, gets his "way back into the sun," if only briefly. It's no neat conclusion, but the film smartly embraces the ambiguity, which makes it appealing ... and frustrating. Despite two hours of hearing the two men talk, we know neither of them (nor their motivations) convincingly.

Langella deserves the kudos that critics began heaping on him when he first took on the role in the stage play on which the film is based. His Nixon isn't an exact facsimile but rather a weathered, haunting, hulking impression. As Frost, Sheen is on the nose, as is Kevin Bacon as Nixon's earnest protector, Jack Brennan. But Rebecca Hall is mere window dressing as Frost's girlfriend, there to amuse the president ever so briefly (she's charming, but the distraction diminishes the film's impact slightly). And while the embellishments in the storytelling may have political history aficionados crying foul, they make for fine drama.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the film's historical accuracy. Why might filmmakers bend the facts when making a movie based on real life? How could you find out more about Nixon and Watergate if you wanted to? Parents and teens can also discuss why they think Nixon agreed to the interview with Frost in the first place. What did he gain from it? Do you think media exposure/coverage generally helps or hurts politicians? Why? How would you describe the relationship between the media and political worlds?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 5, 2008
DVD release date:April 21, 2009
Cast:Frank Langella, Kevin Bacon, Michael Sheen
Director:Ron Howard
Studio:Universal Pictures
Genre:Drama
Run time:122 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:some language

This review of Frost/Nixon was written by

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 15 years old Written byapple boy 2 September 9, 2009
 
the only bad part is the footage they used to make nixon embarresed and a couple impolite words, so if your 10 year-old kid asks if he could see frost nixon, there's no need to hesitate.
Teen, 16 years old Written byMr581 July 27, 2009
 
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Parent of a 15 year old Written byTsion August 13, 2010
 

Fascinating Historical Fiction

FROST/NIXON is a fascinating look back into the politics of the late 1970s, when Watergate was the word and issue on everyone's mouths and minds. This movie tells the story of David Frost, a partying TV host who decides to tackle an interview with the disgraced former President Nixon to win fame and fortune. However, everyone is skeptical about the idea, and Frost ends up putting everything he has into the project, while Nixon hopes for a return to the political life he loves. Michael Sheen does a very good job as Frost, and Frank Langella is nothing short of brilliant as Richard Nixon. The script cackles with tension and chemistry, and draws its historical strength from texts of the actual Frost/Nixon interviews. This movie won't interest many kids, but teens who are interested in this era of American history will enjoy it. The R rating on this movie is tricky, because, aside from a few crass words, the movie is PG material. "F**k" is said four times, once as "motherf**ker". "B**ch" is also said 4-5 times (frequently as "son of a -"), and some milder curse words also make brief appearances. Frost is shown in bed with a woman, who is presumably naked. She gets out of bed and you see her bare back, but the rest is in shadow. Brief footage from the Vietnam War shows bloody bodies. This is a very tame R rated movie. The language is not excessive, and the movie is educational and interesting. It is a great choice for teens interested in history.
What other families should know
Too much swearing

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