The Front Runner is a timely new film based on actual events, exploring an early example of how a politician’s personal life could affect their career.
Hugh Jackman portrays Gary Hart in The Front Runner who was widely considered the likely Democratic nominee during the 1988 presidential election. His campaign would eventually implode under allegations of infidelity against his wife.
This all happened within the span of only three weeks, the film notes at the outset.
It began when Hart was exposed cavorting on a yacht with Donna Rice (Sara Paxton). This was allegedly not the first time he had strayed from his wife (Vera Farmiga), including separations in the past.
The Miami Herald seized on the news as it coincided with Hart’s presidential run. Hart is slow to recognize or acknowledge the potential threat to his professional aims, snapping “How is it relevant?” when the issue of infidelity arises.
He eventually suspends his campaign, giving a speech that some film reviews claim eerily echoes Brett Kavanaugh this year, when the Supreme Court Justice nominee addressed allegations of sexual assault from his past, in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“We’re all going to have to seriously question the system for selecting our national leaders,” Hart bitterly notes, “for it reduces the press of this nation to hunters.”
Reviews have noted that the film doesn’t necessarily take history or the press’ side on Hart’s eventual outcome — posing the question for audiences to answer themselves if a candidate should abide by certain moral codes in order to be fit to run the country.
The film suggests that prior to Hart, politicians with dubious sexual history have proven to be competent leaders nonetheless. Reminiscing about the public’s overall indifference towards John F. Kennedy’s marital transgressions — a character glibly but aptly quips that it was simply a “different time.”
Of course, it would only be four years after Hart’s case when other high-profile allegations and admissions would confront subsequent candidates such as Bill Clinton and Arnold Schwarzenegger during the California gubernatorial race.
Now, it only seems more rote than ever to be privy to the personal lives of political candidates.
Director Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air) co-wrote the script with Jay Carson and reporter Matt Bai, based on the latter’s book.
The Front Runner premiered on Tuesday, Nov. 6 in select U.S. theaters to coincide with the midterm elections, and will expand to wide release Nov. 21. The film is rated R.