I probably would have gotten around to seeing this sooner or later anyway, but when I saw Sayonara the other day, there were door prizes including a DVD of Frost/Nixon, which I won. It was a pleasant little cap to nice movie night, and encouraged me to finally get around to seeing this. I’ve never been much of a fan of Ron Howard as a director, and had zero interest in his recent films like Angels & Demons, but I had heard again and again how good this was.
Howard, and to no small extent his production and costume designers, do a good job of recreating the look of the ’70s. Michael Sheen and Frank Langella, while not especially looking like the title characters, do uncanny impersonations of them, especially Langella, who rose to the challenge of playing a man with such idiosyncratic mannerisms and mater of speaking. Howard and playwright/screenwriter Peter Morgan do a good job creating tension in what is basically a long series of conversations between two guys who are not standing up, while also (apparently) being fairly accurate historically.
The one qualm I had with the film was the dramatic recreation of events behind the Frost/Nixon interviews with a number of shots of members of two contenders’ support teams reminiscing about the interview, apparently years later, such as Kevin Bacon as the Marine guard Congress allow Nixon to keep on his staff after leaving the White House. This struck me as a rather odd directorial decision, since the actors are not made up to look any older than they are in the rest of the film, but they are talking as if the interviews were in the distant past. It might have been interesting if Howard had gotten really comments from the actual people, who are all still alive (with the exception of Swifty Lazar, who was already ancient in 1977) and many of whom attended the premiere of the film. But as it is, these brief scenes, which are for narrative economy, just break up the flow of the movie and become really distracting.
A fun side note I noticed right off, though, was that First Lady Pat Nixon was played by Patty McCormack, who played the most evil girl in the world in The Bad Seed.