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Review: Hugh Jackman emboldens routine 'The Front Runner'

Courtesy of Sony Pictures


Gary Hart was ahead of the game..until he wasn't.

Hart, as some of you may know, was the clear favorite to land the bid as the Democratic nominee for President of the United States in 1988. He was 12 points ahead in the polls, people loved his personality, and he presented an opportunistic approach for our country.

So what happened?

That's what “The Front Runner” plans to disclose. A biopic revolving around Hart (played with edge and fury by Hugh Jackman), and how the campaign to end all campaigns crashed down.

Jackman should be in the awards conversation this year, standing alongside a terrific ensemble (JK Simmons, Vera Farmiga, Alfred Molina, Kevin Pollak, and Sara Paxton) put together by Jason Reitman (“Juno” and “Up In The Air”). Jackman delivers one of his finest portrayals of the last few years (step aside PT Barnum) in what is otherwise a routinely by the numbers film.

Jackman brings a loud roar to Hart, who traveled around the country throwing axes with lumberjacks and flipping burgers for local establishments – just to show his passion for others. The film opens in 1984 on the eve of a crucial election that shows Hart at his lowest. Fast forward and JK Simmons is yelling at interns saying they're working for the “Next President of the United States.”

On paper that would be the correct assumption. Until the Miami Herald receives an anonymous tip regarding an alleged affair with a New York Times reporter, and catches the Colorado Senator with his pants down. Cornered in a dark alley with his political ambitions in check, all hell breaks loose and the candidate would never recover.

Reitman covers all the basics: The rushing to the presses, editors screaming at reporters on the phone, an old fashioned stakeout, and politicians making bad decisions. But Jackman, bless his soul, elevates the picture. The screenplay, adapted from the book “All The Truth” by Matt Bai, penned by Bai and Reitman works better, cohesively, as an investigative journalism film than about Hart himself. We spend more time in newsrooms with tabloid reporters than in Hart's own backyard.

Equally, “The Front Runner” seems too afraid to take a side in its own central debate, but the ideals and accountability (especially in the era of #MeToo) certainly make the film thought-provoking. Jackman proves an inspired actor to embody the public figure, downplaying his own persona, while still conveying Hart's appeal. “The Front Runner” was never going to be one of those political films that hits you over the head with its simmering moral ethics. Then again, it doesn't need to be.

Grade: B  

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