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This film is historically thorough and responsible. It presents a detailed and interesting history of Nader's consumer-protection activism in the 1960s-1970s, which of course has been overshadowed by later events. What I most appreciate about the film, though, is how it handles the highly charged questions surrounding the effects of Nader's presidential runs in 2000 and 2004, e.g., Did Nader really "sabotage" the democrats, and did Nader sully his own legacy. The film has very intelligent and articulate people express their opinions on these questions, and you, the viewer, are allowed your own oponion. Whether you like Nader or not, this is a highly intelligent and provocative film.
The script and story seem reasonable (though I don't know enough about the Rolling Stones' history to judge how historically accurate they are), and the production design and cinematography are quite nice - vivid costumes and believable sets and locations. Most of the damage to the film was done during post-production. Plodding psychedelic "trip" sequences, retro-sixties cliches, and the editors match every key moment with a period song (usually not by the Rolling Stones), i.e. "White Rabbit" for when characters take LSD for the first time, "Ballad of a Thin Man" for when Jones gets fired). The death scene has harsh string music over it, a la Hitchcock. The problem with the chronological jumps is not that they're confusing, but that they serve no purpose. Our knowledge of the characters is not advanced or deepened by them; their only apparent purpose is to make the film seem sophisticated (at which they fail). Jones and Thorogood are both portrayed entirely unsympathetically, as indeed are all the characters, with the possible exception of one of the witless girlfriends. At the end, you wanted them all to drown in that pool.
This film is moving, emotional and great fun. It's a perfect example of the 1970s American cinema that cried out against elite hypocrisy, corruption and greed, and did so with mature, dry wit and dark humor.
The languid pace; the realistic, uncluttered dialog; the mundane sets; the vistas of San Fransisco that are broad and bright, but not too broad and bright - almost everything about this movie is understated. That's what makes it so refreshing, especially compared to today's over-stuffed thrillers. You feel like you're watching real people in a real place. Even the social-political commentary is understated, but it's clearly there, and it's important. The two chase scenes (one in cars; one on foot, at night, at an airport) creep up on you gradually - the film slides into them, without energy-driven music to tell you that they've started. In fact, there's little music in the film in general, giving it an atmosphere of quiet, gentle suspense (to match the main hero's personality). Oddly, when the film first came out, I'm sure it was considered fast and bombastic. That shows you how far we've come, and much many viewers now need to be bludgeoned in order to be interested by something. They don't make 'em like this any more, and many people can't watch 'em any more either. I'm glad I'm old enough to enjoy and be carried away by a film like this.
This movie got positive reviews, and I wanted to like it, but I just couldn't see what the praise was about. The characters are shallowly conceived - I'm sure the real David Frost is much more than the irritatingly false toothy grin he's given in the movie, and the real Richard Nixon, whether you liked his politics or not, was more than the elephant seal portrayed by Frank Langella. The essential conflict in the film was quite simple and predictable. The members of David Frost's research team are defined solely by their professional or ideological goals, and have no depth beyond that. The whole thing feels like a made-for-TV movie. I never saw the play, but it *must* have been more interesting and sophisticated than this simplistic piece of period-piece fluff. The film makes me curious about whether this plastic bead made by Ron Howard came from a pearl.