Blu-ray: The Front Runner

STUDIO: Sony | DIRECTOR: Jason Reitman | CAST: Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, J.K. Simmons, Mark O’Brien, Chris Coy, Ari Graynor
RELEASE DATE: Feb. 12, 2019 | PRICE: DVD $19.31, Blu-ray $20.84
BONUSES: commentary, featurette, deleted scenes
SPECS: R | 113 min. | Drama | 1.85:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital | French, Portuguese, Korean and more with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

As a true-life account of the unraveling of Senator Gary Hart’s 1988 presidential campaign after he was discovered to be having an affair with partygoer Donna Rice, The Front Runner is an often engrossing look at the media and politics, retro-style.

Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables) is solid as the Democratic Colorado senator, who was frequetnly compared to JFK because of his good looks, political savvy and progressive platform. Though portrayed as happily married to the supportive Lee (Vera Farmiga, TV’s Bates Motel), Hart wanders into the arms of young blonde model Donna Rice (Sara Paxton, Th Innkeepers) while on the ironically-named yacht “Monkey Business.” The press under the lead of a Washington Post reporter (Mamoudou Athie, The Circle) and the Miami Herald (Steve Zissis, The House) get wind of a possible extra-marital affair and pursue the story doggedly, leading to confrontational situations with the candidate.

Hugh Jackman is Gary Hart in The Front Runner

The best parts of The Front Runner are the behind-the-scenes sequences that immediately call to mind the great efforts All the President’s Men and The Candidate as the media’s role in the political process is powerfully examined. Here, the members of the Fourth Estate are taken to task by the increasingly frustrated Hart, as he calls them out for stepping over the line in terms of where said line is drawn between the public and private when it comes to politics. Jackman proves especially effective in these uncomfortably confrontational moments. Adding an air of backstage authenticity to the proceedings are the always-reliable J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) as Bill Dixon, Hart’s besieged campaign manager and, in a brief appearance, Alfred Molina (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot) as legendary Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee.

Reitman, the director of such winners as Juno and Up in the Air, had a bittersweet year in 2018, as both his Tully and The Front Runner, issued for a year-end Oscar push, failed to find an audience in theaters (despite generally good reviews). The Front Runner topped off its box-office level at a less-than-thrilling $7 million although it never reached more than 800 screens. An Oscar or Golden Globe nomination for Jackman wouldn’t have hurt…

It’s likely, however, that The Front Runner will draw a relatively brisk viewer base in a post-theatrical world.  Jackman’s fans will want to quench their curiosity level with the actor’s change-of-pace real-person performance,while political junkies can skip their daily dose of Trump news to see how The Front Runner shows that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Buy or Rent The Front Runner

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.