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FRONT RUNNER, THE

SYNOPSIS:
American Senator Gary Hart's (Hugh Jackman) presidential campaign in 1988 is derailed when he's caught in a scandalous love affair.

Review by Louise Keller:
The paradox of ethics, the press and politics comes under scrutiny in a fascinating recount of the sensational circumstances of Gary Hart's failed 1988 run for presidency. Based on Matt Bai's biography, All the Truth is Out, Jason Reitman's film skillfully takes us into the realities of all the key players as it exposes us to the pressures of life not only on the political trail, but also in the newsrooms, in the family home and beyond.

Like the issues at its heart, Reitman has made a complex, multi layered film that takes a hard look beyond the ethics of the idealist senator from Colorado. The spotlight broadens to the ethics of his campaign team, the media and hangers on. The betrayal by Hart for purported infidelity is nothing like the calculated betrayal by those around him. Intelligent, intriguing and insightful, The Front Runner will spark robust conversations and debates.

Perfectly cast, Jackman is at his very best, combining charm, integrity and intelligence as the presidential candidate who has it all. It's a sympathetic portrayal and Jackman makes Hart both likeable and human. His belief that his private life is off limits is addressed several times but none more effectively than J.K. Simmons' (excellent as Hart's campaign manager) anecdote involving changing attitudes and the parallels between the political and Hollywood arenas.

The relationship between Hart and Mamoudou Athie's Washington Post journalist is especially well established, making the latter's betrayal all the more devastating. A member of the campaign team (Molly Ephraim) participates in a betrayal without batting an eyelid. The scene when Hart meets pretty blond model Donna Rice (Sara Paxton) on the unfortunately named boat Monkey Business is especially well directed. Like Hart, we can hardly hear the conversations on the noisy yacht, prompting Hart and Donna to head to the upper deck. What happens during this first encounter is left to our imagination.

Vera Farmiga is effective as Hart's wife, who seems happiest when alone in their remote Denver home, playing the piano. The way she responds to her husband's crucial late night phone call reveals much about their relationship.

The film is far more than a kiss and tell expose. It plays like an ensemble piece and Reitman is an intelligent filmmaker who delves deeply into the subject matter. The result effectively meshes the different worlds and leaves it to us to make our own judgments. I really enjoyed it.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

FRONT RUNNER, THE (M)
(US, 2018)

CAST: Hugh Jackman, Vera Farming, J.K.Simmons

PRODUCER: Helen Estabrook, Aarol L. Gilbert, Jason Reitman

DIRECTOR: Jason Reitman

SCRIPT: Matt Bai, Jay Carson, Jason Reitman (based on book by Matt Bai)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Eric Steelberg

EDITOR: Stefan Grube

MUSIC: Rob Simonsen

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Steve Saklad

RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures Releasing

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 24, 2019







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