There are exactly three scenes that disqualify almost any criticism about this movie:

  1. The drunken, unhinged rant from Frank Langella which tie the two leads together and capstone what is one of the ten best acting performances I've ever scene (and I generally abhor biopic performances, where the best-case scenario so often feels like cosplay).
  2. The "it's my birthday" delivery from Michael Sheen's Frost, whose performance gets lost in all of Langella's adulation but is perhaps even trickier (and certainly more dynamic).
  3. The subtlest of all: ten seconds of quiet astonishment, again from Michael Sheen, as the cameras briefly cut off when he has Nixon on the ropes, realizing dumbly that he's Done It.

This is a film that you watch and instantly realize it is a theatrical adaptation, and I admire the filmmakers for leaning into it. There are parts of excess (the documentary-esque asides felt wholly unnecessary) and things that I think could have made the movie stronger (why is Rebecca Hall's character necessary at all? What does she bring beyond a pretty face to tell Sheen "no, come on, you've got this!") but, again, those three scenes.



You know the first and greatest sin or deception of television is that it simplifies; it diminishes great, complex ideas, tranches of time; whole careers become reduced to a single snapshot. At first I couldn't understand why Bob Zelnick was quite as euphoric as he was after the interviews, or why John Birt felt moved to strip naked and rush into the ocean to celebrate. But that was before I really understood the reductive power of the close-up, because David had succeeded on that final day, in getting for a fleeting moment what no investigative journalist, no state prosecutor, no judiciary committee or political enemy had managed to get; Richard Nixon's face swollen and ravaged by loneliness, self-loathing and defeat.

Lightning bolt
Subscribe to my newsletter

I publish monthly roundups of everything I've written, plus pictures of my corgi.
© 2024 Justin Duke · All rights reserved · have a nice day.