Tuesday, April 3, 2007
In 2006, Peter Morgan guided both Helen Mirren and Forrest Whitaker to Academy Awards with his screenplays for The Queen and The Last King of Scotland, respectively. And, to be perfectly honest, I really didn't like either film. While I feel that Morgan would make a superb beat journalist, there really was nothing inherently cinematic in those two movies. There's also nothing overly theatrical about Frost/Nixon, his debut play, which is currently on Broadway after a successful London run. Morgan seems to fall into the trap of many novice playwrights: When you have nothing for your characters to say, have them say it in direct address. Far too often do the secondary characters--Nixon's chief of staff, Frost's research assistant--come center stage to reiterate what we already know already, and the result is static. The play doesn't really start to cook until nearly an hour in, when the actual battle of the titans occurs. While Frank Langella looks absolutely nothing like Nixon (he actually bears a striking resemblance to Ronald Reagan), he brings a kind of rare, kinetic energy to the role that often left the audience in stunned silence. His able counterpart, Michael Sheen, is pitch-perfect as David Frost; he has every facet of his personality down pat, and compellingly makes the case for a playboy itching to be taken seriously. Still, I left feeling like I'd seen a solid documentary, not a fully realized drama.