Frost/Nixon

I did this for an homework assignment. It looks much better in Word than in this post. I won’t alter it, as to preserve my original trains of thought.

Everyone should know about the Watergate scandal. It forever changed how people looked at the government and especially Richard Nixon. I never knew about the interview between David Frost and Richard Nixon. It was never taught nor shown to me in school.

Frost/Nixon is a historical drama film. The premise begins with the infamous Watergate scandal and the resignation of Nixon. David Frost, English talk show host, saw Nixon entering the helicopter on TV and had the idea of interviewing him. He discusses the possibility of interviewing Nixon but had slim hopes that he could do so.

CBS offered Nixon $350,000, but Frost put $600,000 of his own money on the table. He sold everything he had and went down to California to visit Nixon. They exchange a $200,000 down payment and Nixon’s chief of staff does not believe Frost can come up with the rest of the money. Frost tries to sell this four segment interview, each 90 minutes long, to US broadcast stations, but none accept it. He’s in financial trouble at this time, but still manages to get a recording crew.

The first hours of interview with Nixon do not go as planned. Frost tried to challenge Nixon with “on the spot” questions, but Nixon took up time by making long speeches and leaving nothing for Frost to respond to. Nothing is working out and Nixon’s speeches seem to exonerate him from any negativity.

The turning point of the film is when Frost receives a call from a drunken Nixon late at night. Thinking it was for a food order, he answered “cheeseburgers”. But instead, Nixon starts to tell Frost that people of a higher class brought him down because they refused to accept him in a high position. The final interview could only have one winner, and the loser will have to suffer the consequences.

In the final interview, Frost presents a strong argument against Nixon’s involvement in Watergate. Nixon started to admit that he did some things that would be illegal, were he not the President. With every question Frost asks, Nixon is more defensive. There is a moment when Nixon pauses, and his chief of staff comes in to stop the recording.

Frost tries to persuade Nixon to apologize to the American people. Nixon is reluctant to do so, but he admits that he made “horrendous mistakes”. He explains that no one knows how hard it is for him to resign. Finally, Nixon admits that he “let down the country”.

As the film is ending, Frost visits Nixon in his house in California. Nixon asks what he talked about with Frost on the phone. He replied, “cheeseburgers”

Frost/Nixon is based on the real interviews taken place in the 1970s. Some of the events, like the late-night drunken call, were fabricated for the film, but it adds a certain aspect to the portrayed character in Nixon. Everything else is “absolutely right”, stated by the real David Frost.

The film’s ending is very powerful. Nixon’s speech admitting his mistakes was played with a lot of emotion and vigor. There was a deep sense of regret in his tone of voice, which combined to form an amazing final half hour of film. The moments of silence from Nixon only added to the atmosphere.

What’s interesting about the Frost/Nixon interview is that Nixon’s entire career was diminished into one image. Complex ideas turn into simple ideas. Nixon was defeated in the end, and his snapshot was all anyone needed to see. Watching some clips of the original interview, the new film conveyed more emotion. Nixon was more nimble and free-speaking in real life and looked a lot better. But the end results are the same. Except that in the original interview, Nixon did not come off as sincere or sympathetic.

The most fascinating aspect of this film was that it gave Nixon some humanity. I at first wanted to see this man confess his wrongdoings, but when he did, I didn’t feel any satisfaction. I have heard the real audio and even then, I didn’t feel any content. Nixon believed that everyone was constantly against him. Maybe it was his paranoia to protect his presidency that ultimately cost him it. I can’t stand to root for someone’s failures.

I wish the real Frost/Nixon interviews were available in the public archives. Everyone should see this interview, especially recent generations who did not witness it live on the air. Nixon is an American tragic figure. He may be seen as one of the worst presidents, but I think there’s more to him than that. His personality escalated the whole situation, and a few simple words would’ve resolved a lot of conflict. Nixon has done a lot of good things in his presidency. But in history, the blunders are usually the most apparent.

The film actually makes me want to view the real interviews. It showed me a side of Nixon that I’ve heard about, been taught about, but have yet to experience for myself. It’s not a very exciting film. It’s slower than some documentaries. But the last half hour is outstanding. I would recommend it to any history buff or viewer able to last 2 hours watching essentially a 60 Minutes interview.

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