It's 1984 and Colorado Senator Gary Hart is running for the Democratic Presidential nomination. Narrowly missing out, he gears up for the 1988 campaign where he quickly becomes The Front Runner. Three weeks to the primaries and with a 12 point lead in the polls, Hart is the man to beat. And then it all falls apart.
The Front Runner is the dramatisation of this true story and it comes to us packed with some of Hollywood's biggest names. Hugh Jackman leads the cast as Gary Hart with Vera Farmiga playing his wife Lee and J.K. Simmons (Invincible) as his campaign manager Bill Nixon. Even the smaller roles are packed with talent including Mark O'Brien (Republic Of Doyle), Kaitlyn Dever (Unbelievable), Alfred Molina and Tommy Dewey (Casual). So what exactly was it that ended Gary Hart's Presidential bid?
It was rumours of an affair. Sort of. Baring in mind that this was 1987, the press was quite forgiving when it came to politicians and their infidelities. In fact, the press really never commentated on anything other than the politics. A higher moral code than we are used to these days. But when the Miami Herald was tipped off that a young woman was visiting Hart at his DC residence, they staked it out, took photos, and ran the story. These days that wouldn't make the local free paper but in 1987 it was explosive.
And the rest, as they say, is history. Gary Hart did not become the Democratic nominee, Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts did. And he was defeated by George H. W. Bush. So how true to the real-life story is The Front Runner? By all accounts, quite accurate. Creators even incorporated actual tv footage from the time and Hugh Jackman gives a credible and engaging performance as Hart.
There's a lot to like about the film. It deals with the first sensationalised scandal that more or less paved the way for how the media behave in 2020. Today, Gary Hart would have been able to just brazen it out and spin the story, quite possibly ending up as President. But not in 1987.
The Front Runner is good. But somewhere along the line, I realised I still knew very little about Gary Hart or why he was so popular. It just glosses over that and expects us to take it as a given. Honestly, while the acting was solid, the script was lacking in real depth and at times I was hoping the film would hurry along and get to the end. And even when it did, I wasn't all that bothered by the outcome. I still love Hugh Jackman though!