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#TIFF18 Review: The Front Runner

September 16, 2018

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The latest film from director Jason Reitman, The Front Runner is a polished and expertly acted dramatization of Gary Hart’s failed 1988 presidential bid, working as a cautionary tale that is particularly relevant in this current political climate.

The film unfolds over three weeks, and opens with Colorado Senator Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman) entering the 1988 presidential race, becoming the clear front runner for the Democratic nomination following his failed bid in 1984. But when the media gets wind of the fact that Hart is having an extra-marital affair with a young woman by the name of Donna Rice (Sara Paxton), his campaign is rocked by a scandal that engulfs his wife (Vera Farmiga), his campaign manager (J.K. Simmons), and a young Washington Post reporter (Mamoudou Athie) who ends up in the middle of it all.

The film is a bit slow moving, but Reitman brings an engaging observational style to the way that he depicts the unfolding drama and the large cast of characters that get caught up in it, while also showing hints of the ripple effect that these events had on things to come. If Hart hadn’t been forced to pull out of the race in the midst this scandal, he almost certainly would have won the presidency over George H.W. Bush, which would have seriously altered the course of history as we know it.

The film is equally timely in its depiction of a media that is rabidly obsessed with the personal lives of public officials, bolstered by the need to sell papers through more salacious headlines. Carried by an excellent performance from Jackman, who is backed up by a uniformly strong supporting cast, The Front Runner works as an interesting and entertaining look at a political campaign going sideways.

Hugh Jackman in The Front Runner

Public Screenings:

Saturday, September 8th – 6:30 PM at Ryerson Theatre

Sunday, September 9th – 12:30 PM at Elgin Theatre

Friday, September 14th – 1:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox

Saturday, September 15th – 6:00 PM at Ryerson Theatre

The 2018 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 6th to 16th.

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