Films that recover small moments in modern history from extinction always earn an extra accolade or two. Multiple Academy Award nominee Jason Reitman guides the account of Gary Hart’s ill-fated run for president in 1988 with expected levity and intelligence. As Hart, Hugh Jackman does not have to live up to anyone’s distinctive memories; Hart is no Jack Kennedy or Bill Clinton.
The film’s strength lies in its ensemble of campaign workers and press—J.K. Simmons, Molly Ephraim, Chris Coy (“Treme”), Vera Farmiga, Alex Karpovsky (“Girls”), Josh Brener (“Silicon Valley”), Alfred Molina, Ari Graynor, Bill Burr, Kevin Pollak and Toby Huss. (So many of these faces are familiar from HBO, one can be excused for assuming, rightly, how much more impressive this film would have seemed on pay cable.)
Like many a politician, The Front Runner lacks a solid message. The film is right that Hart’s downfall changed the way the press reports on politicos, but refuses to take a stand on whether or not that change was positive or negative. Nonetheless, this highly electable film is a charismatic waffler that will earn the votes of viewers still trying to process the current political climate.