Frank Langella gives a serious and stirring account of RN. He wisely eschews imitation, much less impersonation. Aside from some of the obviously applied physical characteristics, and the adoption of a recognizably husky vocal timbre, Mr. Langella’s Nixon is convincing not because it is derivative, but because it is complete. In fact, quite unlike RN whose locution was formal and whose diction was precise, this Nixon speaks casually and colloquially and often even drops his “gs.” Mr. Langella uses his brain (and undoubtedly his heart) to embody the balanced elements of confidence, formality, toughness, shyness, insecurity, and vulnerability, and then renders them into a character that must move and compel even the people who knew RN, and have that high standard of comparison. Of course, that’s what acting at this exalted level is all about.
And Ron Howard, much of whose work has been open and optimistic and straightforward, has turned out to be the ideal director for this complex, essentially cerebral, and decidedly dark two finger exercise. He is above all a story teller, and he keeps his eye on Frost/Nixon’s clear, compelling, and chronological story line. And while he knows how to keep the story moving forward, he also shows a willingness —and the confidence— to slow things down and take the time it takes to let the story also sink in. This is brilliant directing — authoritative and unobtrusive.
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