For those who don’t know, this period stage-adaptation tells the story behind the (allegedly) earth-shattering interview that former-comic-turned-TV-presenter David Frost (Michael Sheen) conducted with odious ex-president Richard Nixon (Frank Langella), several years after his resignation from office, in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Although this is the sort of “biopic” I generally prefer, focussing on a single significant chapter in its characters’ lives rather than trying to condense their entire existence into a two-hour movie, there were still a number of corners cut and facts fudged in the name of “dramatic licence”. Which is probably a tad immoral, but as a viewer I appreciated the rollicking story and engaging character arcs, as ‘Frost’ dropped his playboy image to prove his mettle as a serious journalist, and ‘Nixon’ found himself facing a worthy opponent in the final round of their intellectual bout. It may be historically-inaccurate hogwash, but at least it’s entertaining hogwash, right?
If this were an entirely fictional story, I’d take this opportunity to complain about the secondary status of the female characters… but since it’s loosely based on true events I can’t really play the “affirmative action” card here, can I? The only woman who gets any serious screentime is Frost’s then-girlfriend, Caroline Cushing (Rebecca Hall), and all she really does is flirt and fetch food for the menfolk. In a revealing interview from around the time of the film’s release, the real Cushing confirms that although she was a budding journalist herself at the time, she willingly took a backseat to Frost and his “expert researchers”, and did indeed make them all sandwiches… so fair enough. In the film it’s suggested that Frost just casually started chatting her up on the flight over, and then took her to Nixon’s house for drinks… which seemed like an odd choice for a “first date” to me… but in reality the two of them had already been together for five years by that point! Still, Hall gives such a warm and charming performance, it’s pretty easy to believe that a man could be smitten with her after such a brief period.