Perhaps the biggest question surrounding The Front Runner, an ambitious new movie from director Jason Reitman (Juno), is exactly how audiences will approach this rather puzzling film. To be sure, many people will take note because it stars Hugh Jackman, portraying once-presidential hopeful Gary Hart. But, sad to say, a good many of the 20-somethings who were in line to see The Front Runner at the Toronto International Film Festival needed to be reminded exactly who Gary Hart was.
"But I'll see anything with Hugh Jackman," more than a few of them said before the screening.
Jennifer Goodwin Getty Images for TIFF
Hugh Jackman starred in The Front Runner.
Based on the 2014 book, All the Truth is Out, Reitman's The Front Runner is more about how far our political system has spiraled out of control than it is about Hart's failed 1988 presidential campaign. And the film pulls few punches in portraying a rather unsavory American press that deliberately chose to take the low road back in '88, pondering how best to exploit Hart's extramarital affair. Hart was indeed the "front runner," before he hopped aboard a Miami Beach boat dubbed Monkey Business, changing modern political history forever.
The good news is that Jackman is in fine form here, supported by a cast that includes J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) and Vera Farmiga (so good in Reitman's Up in the Air in 2009). And while the The Front Runner gets much-deserved credit for a whip-smart script and some very good performances, don't expect to leave the theater feeling any better for the effort. In fact, it's a sullen reminder of how far we have fallen. The film's promotional poster and trailer might have you believing that The Front Runner is a black comedy. Don't believe it. There's nothing funny here—but it is quite dark.