Updated: Jan 20, 2019
Coming off of The Greatest Showman, the hit Academy-Award nominated starring Hugh Jackman in his most recent performance, one might expect Jackman to continue with the blockbuster momentum he was quickly attaining, with the soundtrack of Showman dominating charts for weeks on end. However, Jackman in both a mannerist and altruistic fashion instead turns to director Jason Reitman to create what is effectively a push for Jackman as an awards-caliber actor. Playing former US Senator Gary Hart, the actor iconic for his work as the clawed superhero X-Men portrays Hart and the disastrous decline of his presidential campaign in a short matter of three weeks due to adultery allegations from the press. It’s certainly a film that fits with what voters tend to enjoy in this age, given the more frequent number of older members of the Academy despite their best efforts to insert fresh, new blood. But as a result, Reitman’s latest directorial effort will be judged more harshly based on its merits and downfalls. But even without that handicap, The Front Runner still cripples itself with a meandering form of storytelling that never takes any legitimate risks. Nothing about The Front Runner is bold, surprising or even remotely innovative. The film is shockingly shallow with thematic material, material that would have made Jackman’s take on the memorable historical event all the more digestible and earnest. Supported by a moderate performance from lead Hugh Jackman, The Front Runner ultimately topples over itself in its simplicity and failure to peek just an inch deeper into the thematic material of Gary Hart’s pivotal conclusion to his presidential campaign.
Featuring a screenplay from Jay Carson, director Jason Reitman, and Matt Bai, who also wrote the book that the film is based on, The Front Runner often falls subject and prey to casual inklings of modern screenplays. For one, the film seems to preface the fact that being simplistic is far better than being branching. And from the writers’ point of view, this decision isn’t unreasonable. With recent films like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald placing their exposition-heavy, confusing plots in front of a massive, blockbuster audience, The Front Runner almost does the complete inverse, delivering a film that is easy to understand and interpret from the beginning to the very end. It never aims to create subtle, character-driven moments that would enhance the film’s meaning and relevance. Instead it opts for the simplest way of telling its rather unfathomable scenario, leading to a collision of issues.