In 1988 Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman) was the front runner in the Presidential campaign. A lot can happen in politics in the space of three weeks though when he is embroiled in a sexual scandal.
Based on a true story, Jason Reitman’s latest film seems to pose two almost contradictory moral questions but with both of them well and truly aimed at the current incumbent of the highest office in America. Firstly, should we hold presidential candidates to the highest moral standards? And secondly, are politicians entitled to a fully private life with only their policies on the table for discussion.
Reitman does seem to want his cake and to eat it though. Hart is painted as a visionary who would have done great things if only journalists hadn’t got into the gutter and delved into his private life. And yet the mechanism of tabloid journalism that roots out this moral dubiousness is also what is described as scaring away the brightest and best to allow lesser people to run for office. On either count though it feels clear that both have led us to Trump.
As entertainment it’s a solid film. Hugh Jackman puts in a barnstorming performance as a politician unable to grasp that his private life should be interesting to voters and he is ably backed up by a whole range of recognisable faces including J.K. Simmons and Vera Farmiga. The period feel is expertly done showing a world not that long ago when we still needed pay phones and to develop film. The camera work is fantastically precise as well. There are a number of shots that navigate bustling press rooms and campaign events moving through crowds and picking up snippets of conversations doing a great job of displaying the frenetic world they work in.
It does however have lulls and doesn’t maintain the momentum throughout. It certainly fits with other political morality tales such as City Hall and The Ides of March though.