Parents' Guide to

The Front Runner

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Thought-provoking, well-acted drama about politics, media.

Movie R 2018 113 minutes
The Front Runner Poster Image

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This fact-based drama is a well-acted, thorough examination of a moment in time when a politician's personal life cost him a fighting chance at the presidency. Reitman uses a Robert Altman-esque approach: no score, multiple overlapping conversations, lots of dialogue and details. The Front Runner follows not only Hart but also his staff (J.K. Simmons as Bill Dixon and Molly Ephraim as Irene Kelly are particularly outstanding) and political reporters (Mamoudou Athie is effective as a conflicted young Washington Post reporter, and Steven Zissis is entertaining as the original Miami Herald writer who broke the story). Then there's Vera Farmiga, who plays Lee Hart, from whom Gary had been temporarily estranged but then reconciled with. As always, Farmiga is amazing at expressing much with little dialogue.

Reitman and co-writers Matt Bai and Jay Carson don't provide any definitive answers about what Hart and Rice did or didn't do. The story doesn't force viewers to sympathize with Hart or to lament the fact that he didn't get the chance to be president. They do, however, make it clear that Rice was left without a safety net after the scandal went public. But Hart remains an enigma who refuses to entertain personal questions because he believes the public isn't entitled to anything but his service. Jackman, who's usually so outgoing and emotional in films, has to rein in his performance here, and it's fascinating -- if frustrating -- for viewers. This is no message movie -- although a few one-liners might remind folks of the current state of politics -- but it will make people think and ponder the relationship between the media, the public, and the people we elect.

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