Put on a brave front

The Front Runner

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

Rated M

The Front Runner is a compelling but confused biopic about the failed Presidential campaign of former US Senator Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman), whose chances are ruined in a matter of weeks when allegations emerge of an extramarital affair.

The Front Runner is tightly-paced, presenting a tense, inexorable decline. The conversations tingle with ego, resolve and tactics, as the newspapers consolidate their story and Hart’s campaign struggles to maintain momentum, and the rapid-fire dialogue often layers over itself, creating a disorienting but fittingly frenzied feel.

Jackman is commanding and charismatic as Hart, but also conveys a stoic naivete, as Hart doggedly refuses to accept the profound sway of the media circus.

The film also features some powerful imagery, including the idealised golden lighting of Hart’s home before the scandal drops, a white window evoking the burning light of public opinion or a swarm of reporters as a forbidding barrier at the Harts’ gate.

But The Front Runner contains a paradox: the film frames the affair as true, while at the same time highlighting the flimsiness of the tabloids’ allegations. The film confronts the potential harm in allegations and the sloppy, underhanded methods of the media, but these conflicts lose impact when their claims are correct.

The Front Runner is riveting as a showcase of acting and moody suspense, but stumbles with its themes and is rather offensive toward the real people involved (Hart and activist Donna Rice), as they have always denied the affair.

– Seth Lukas Hynes