Matt Towery

Hollywood tilts toward mega-action films with plenty of special effects but little in the way of special entertainment. That changes with the brilliant "Frost/Nixon." Director Ron Howard brings together a flawless cast with a team of exceptional writers to present us with a rare contemporary cinematic jewel.

And I feel somewhat qualified myself to comment on the essence of the film, given an almost "Forrest Gump-like" encounter I had with former President Richard Nixon.

Howard's film takes some creative license with history, but presents a compelling story of how British talk show interviewer David Frost -- a stateside media pop star in the '60s and '70s -- managed to bag a startling post-resignation interview with Nixon.

Frost is portrayed as a playboy whose career has hit the skids. He decides to revive it by raising the money to produce hours of interviews with Nixon and breaking new ground by selling the interviews through syndication.

Those who have read advanced copies of my new book, "Paranoid Nation: The Real Story of The 2008 Fight For The Presidency," will recall my coincidental encounter with Richard Nixon in 1983. The essence of that chance encounter explains much about Nixon, including the Nixon portrayed in the new movie.

In it, Frost conducts hours of mostly benign interviews with Nixon, who appears to charm Frost and to cast himself as highly likeable. Even Frost's own production team felt that the interviewer known for glib chitchat wasn't up to parry-and-thrust sessions with the likes of Nixon.

I won't give away the plot, but allow me to recount a critical scene. An inebriated Nixon phones Frost at his hotel room and starts rambling about what it is like to be "an outsider" and how, even in the ongoing interviews, either Nixon or Frost will "win." He basically challenges Frost to take him on.

The burr under Nixon's saddle is his deep-seated notion that anyone who isn't from an "aristocratic" background -- be it British or American -- necessarily must feel resentment towards their "betters," and probably have been treated badly by them.

Having researched Frost, Nixon asks him how badly he was treated as the son of a minister studying among the gentry at Cambridge. He picks at Frost, trying to see if he, too, shares the resentment for the so-called "elite" that haunted Nixon. Frost doesn't bite.


Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a former National Republican legislator of the year and author of Powerchicks: How Women Will Dominate America.
 
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