The increasing desperation of Frost’s team behind the scenes is palpable, so it’s unfortunate that viewers are given little reason to care about Frost’s professional and personal lives. His female companion (Rebecca Hall) is peripheral to the story, and Frost’s career as an interviewer will be irrelevant to most viewers. He’s most interesting as a tool that can pry the lock off of Nixon’s tightly controlled persona, but it’s Langella’s Nixon who looms largest in the battle royal. That Frost is ultimately the victor is less interesting for what it says about Frost than what it says about Nixon.

Perhaps the imbalance in personalities—a complex, corrupt president versus a lightweight TV interviewer—would have put anyone who played Frost at a disadvantage in this drama. Of course, the underdog aspect of Frost taking on Nixon is part of what makes the story intriguing, but it also makes for an unbalanced drama. We enjoy the suave Nixon, as portrayed superbly by Langella, even when he’s filibustering in response to Frost’s questions. On the other hand, watching Frost and his team squirm gets old. We sense that a payoff is coming, and when it does, it delivers. But the film’s denouement, indicating that Frost landed on the cover of two newsweeklies after the interview, feels oddly irrelevant. A reminder from Reston that Nixon’s most lasting legacy is that the suffix “gate” now gets attached to any presidential scandal is an oversimplification of the impact of Nixon’s presidency.

The filmmakers behind Frost/Nixon are promoting the film by trying to tie the abuse of Richard Nixon to events that occurred under the George W. Bush administration. In a time when the current president has received blame for anything and everything, such a strategy may prove wise in generating interest in the film, even if the parallels between Nixon and Bush can be disputed. Viewers can decided the merits of such an argument, but even those who disagree with the attempt to connect the two presidents will be able to appreciate Frost/Nixon as a fine drama that’s worth watching and pondering as a historical artifact.

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  • Smoking/Drinking:  Smoking and drinking; Nixon makes a drunken phone call to Frost.
  • Language/Profanity:  Lord’s name taken in vain; foul language; racial epithets.
  • Sex/Nudity:  When Frost and a woman are awakened in bed, the woman quickly gets out of bed, but nothing is shown; Frost flirts with a woman on an airplane, and is later shown walking down a small staircase from a location above the plane’s main level; joke about someone “having a go” at Nixon’s dog; Nixon asks Frost if he “did any fornicating”; men ogle some Playboy bunnies; a man strips and runs into the ocean, and his backside is shown.
  • Violence:  War images show dead people and animals.
  • Spirituality:  Frost is encouraged to frame his questions “as a Quaker”—a reference to Nixon’s faith tradition; Chuck Colson, who became born again years before the interview, is referred to as Nixon’s “darkest henchman”; Nixon says he and Henry Kissinger weren’t “particularly orthodox” in their faith traditions; Frost is said to have a Methodist background.