- Oliver Stone
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Monday, January 12, 2009
Oliver Stoneís take on Nixonís presidency, co-scripted by himself and Stephen J. Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson, is unflattering to say the least, and panned by some for that reason, but itís truthful at least in one way: thereís so much a man can do to control the fate of a country where so many interests intertwine, sometimes in a completely colliding way. Instead of Nixon, the film should probably be called Nixonís Presidency, after all, all it does is focus on that and use some of the manís background as an explanation of his role in that most important of all political posts of the country.
The movie is overlong and quite detailed but not in a way that makes it simpler; it rather assumes the viewer knows and understands every historical detail that surrounded Nixonís presidency, including the Watergate scandal, and wants only to crave into the unknown and the possibilities and hearsay. Not so. I for one know the story quite well and still had trouble following up. If thereís anything worse than boredom, thatís incomprehension, and I was the victim of that here and there.
What Stone proposes is Nixon was haunted by the ghosts of his motherís (Mary Steenburgen) religious fervency, his two brothersí deaths that allowed him to go to Law School, the shadow of Jack Kennedy who once defeated him for the presidency and then went on to die violently becoming a national martyr (and hero), and his overall insecurities that were step by step overpowered by his strength and the support of all those around him: from his loving wife to his faithful aides to his strong supporters.
What Stone adds in an exercise of creative liberty is some of the background: Bob Haldeman (James Woods), the presidentís his chief of staff, mocks him every once and again behind his back though he truly supports and helps him in every way he can; J. Edgar Hoover (Bob Hoskins) mercilessly buffaloes Nixon to play ball; powerful businessmen such as the tycoon Jack Jones (Larry Hagman) do more than is apparent to put him in officeÖ for a price; etc. The script shies away, as expected, from actually declaring these things by, letís say, adding a scene that ties any of these knots. Yet, the suggestion is there for those who will take it. And some are quite willing, while others are indignant.
I was so fascinated by Anthony Hopkinsí portrayal of Nixon that I could hardly consider all the controversy though. Not that I minded, anyway, because I know thatís the style of Oliver Stone and Iím way past considering it outrageous. I do suppose that whoever is affected by it, like, letís say, Nixonís daughters, who condemned it, I am told, have good reason to be mad. I wouldnít do much about it though, let Stone say whatever he wants, denouncing the film only gives it publicity, but thatís just me. As I was saying, the casting of Hopkins is gifted; donít know where that came from. Watching Nixonís real speeches I realized their voices are rather similar, but still, who thought of that? Someone who completely trusted in Hopkinsí talent, thatís for sure, and of course, the man proved them right: heís incredible in every mannerism, pause and twitch. Heís Nixon, not Hopkins, all throughout.
As his wife Pat Nixon, Joan Allen also does an unspeakable work. Her character is much more amiable and less compromised with reality (as Pat was not as much of a public figure) but itís also tremendous in that it holds much of the human load of the story and she does that easily. I could really feel and understand the love between Dick the husband and Pat the wife and itís in great part because of her.
The cast, as expected, is large and wide. Just to mention a few names, aside from the aforementioned, Ed Harris, David Hyde Pierce, Paul Sorvino, Tony Goldwin, Madeline Kahn and Dan Hedaya show up. The cinematography by Robert Richardson, score by John Williams and editing by Brian Berdan and Hank Corwin are also notable. I guess, somehow, if he had had the opportunity to watch this, Nixon wouldíve grinnedÖ and then grimaced.
Gon C Curiel en Twitter | CriticSociety en Twitter | CriticSociety en Facebook
Share on Facebook | Share on Twitter