Movie ReviewsTIFF 2018: The Front Runner Review

Keith NoakesSeptember 9, 2018

This will be one of many reviews during this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. If you would like to keep up with our content, click here. For photos of the premiere, check out our social media accounts (link below).

Synopsis: The film follows the rise and fall of Senator Hart, who captured the imagination of young voters and was considered the overwhelming front runner for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination when his campaign was sidelined by the story of an extramarital relationship with Donna Rice. As tabloid journalism and political journalism merged for the first time, Senator Hart was forced to drop out of the race – events that left a profound and lasting impact on American politics and the world stage. (Sony Pictures)

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, and J.K. Simmons

Writers: Matt Bai, Jay Carson, and Jason Reitman

Director: Jason Reitman

Rating: 14A (Canada)/R (United States)

Running Time: 113mins


Based on the true story of Senator Gary Hart’s (Jackman) failed 1988 presidential campaign, the film looks at this event from multiple angles. During a three week period, the married Hart was caught by the press having an encounter with a with a woman who was not his wife. This story created a firestorm that eventually led to the failure of his campaign. This choice only muddled the plot as it tries to say far too much in the broadest way possible which only lessened it’s intended impact.

The story followed Hart’s campaign team as they tried to spin the incident as well as the press who ran their own investigation into Hart and his potential affair. Both sides found themselves at odds with one another but keep in mind that this alleged affair was never proven. The idea of morality loomed large here as these unsubstantiated claims had the potential to ruin the campaign of what could be an innocent man, however, the newspapers were not willing to let the story go. This case helped to set the precedent regarding the involvement of the press in the political process.

Hart was being judged in the court of public opinion, however, the film did not give viewers the chance to decide for themselves. Hart was a man of few words, however, the film’s intentions were more ideological than telling a straight story about Hart. Jackman showed some fire and Farmiga, who had a few moments as Hart’s wife Liz, did their best with what they had, each delivering strong performances though it would have been nice to see the husband and wife drama play out more. Simmonds was strong as Hart’s campaign manager, Bill Dixon, but he and Farmiga were unjustly relegated to the background for most of the film.

Overall, this was a muddled dramedy that has too much to say and is too broad to ever make an impact. Jackman, Farmiga, and Simmonds were strong at times but weren’t given much of a chance to shine. Though it may not be a front runner, it’s still a decent mid-pack film.

Score: 6.5/10

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