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TIFF 2018: The Front Runner
October 4, 2018
It was at the foot of the incredible Rocky Mountains that provided Gary Hart with the perfect backdrop to the perfect speech. As he stood strong and committed, he captured the attention of many as he announced his running for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination. In that promising moment he’d never have imagined that the very words he proclaimed to inspire the people, would soon circle back to challenge his character only weeks later.
“All of us must try to hold ourselves to the very highest standards of integrity and ethics, and soundness of judgment…”
Hugh Jackman plays his first ever non-fictional role exceptionally as Gary Hart in the The Front Runner, the well-respected family man who resided with his loving wife Lee (Vera Farmiga) and children in small town Troublesome , Colorado. Decades younger than former leader, (Ronald Reagan) a truly determined statesman with and a genuine desire to better the lives of the people; he stood with a solid lead as the front runner to win the US election.
Just weeks before the vote, there was an anonymous tip off that Hart had been rendezvousing with another woman, someone that he’d met on a boat party whilst running the campaign away in DC. When confronted by a reporter about the woman who was staying at his townhouse, Hart exploded in frenzy and denial – “Follow me around, I don’t care. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They’d be very bored”
He probably shouldn’t have said that really should he? Speculation reached the ears of reporters at The Miami Herald, curiosity arose and an investigative steak-out commenced, where eventually the lady in question, Donna Rice (Sara Paxton) was spotted entering his Washington abode.
News publications now obsessed with his (potential) sex scandal shifted their focus from his thriving campaign at its most integral stage to instead harassing him about his personal shenanigans. When his trustworthy colleagues begin to confront him about addressing the situation, he stood adamant that he wouldn’t rise to the press’ taunts.
It’s the shouting match between Hart and Bill Dixon (J.K. Simmons) that sees Gary at his highest defense yet, proclaiming that it’s rumors and sleaze and he won’t buckle to those attempting to destroy his political chances. It’s here that we feel like handing him a mirror, surely he wouldn’t be acting this argumentative if he’d been holding himself to the ‘highest of standards of integrity’ behind the scenes?
Matt Bai,’s book All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid, serves as the inspiration for this films true adaptation and director Jason Reitman has done a remarkable job in retelling the story. It’s astonishing and devastating really; that a man who could have had such an incredible impact and influence on America’s future, was unraveled within weeks from contradicting words v actions, not being able to keep his party popper in his pants.
Was it necessary though for the press to cover the speculation the way they did? Were the consequences of America’s political future considered in the moment? Did Hart’s mistake mean he’d be a lesser phenomenal leader? I mean, when you look at the headlines since this time; multiple affairs, sexual harassment and pussy grabbing, seems like whoever we elect is going to be an imperfect human. As much as it’s a damn shame he stepped out of the process, he did it for the sake of his family (tail now between his knees) whose respect he cared more about earning back than the American people’s and I admire his step back towards honesty for that.
With both strong male and female leads, (of which I totally wanted to make sure I mentioned Vera Farmiga’s work as Lee Hart, striking, stunning, fierce and brave) I’d highly recommend seeing this fascinating and insightful film this autumn. A chance to see Hugh working the American angles and of course yet another opportunity to gasp and smirk at what on earth politics has turned into since this then.
Toronto International Film Festival took place between 6th-16th September 2018.
Words by Lisa Coleman @lisa_d_coleman