A Sex Scandal Derails Front Runner's Career
If the timing of the release of the true-life political drama, The Front Runner, starring Hugh Jackman, seems intentional, we couldn’t agree more. Or approve more, for that matter. (Don’t forget to VOTE, please!)
Thirty years ago, there was a race for the Democratic presidential nomination between a charismatic Colorado senator named Gary Hart and the less-than exciting Massachusetts Governor, Michael Dukakis. Hart’s political allure, not to mention his outright sexiness, did not go unnoticed by supporters and he seemed like a shoe-in for the nomination. Until “it” happened.
“It” was the widely publicized sex scandal involving Hart and Donna Rice. Remember, 1987 was still a relatively innocent time when reporters, out of respect for the candidate, didn’t ask questions about a politician’s marriage and certainly wouldn’t write about their personal lives. Can you imagine how JFK would have done in his election if our parents and grandparents knew of his many extra marital affairs? Not too well, we imagine, especially with his massive number of Catholic followers.
An anonymous tip to the Miami Herald got the newspaper’s attention and the reporters started digging. Soon, the Hart/Rice love affair was revealed after a photograph surfaced of her sitting on Hart’s lap on a private boat, ironically called Monkey Business. The Herald and the New York Times ran with the story, quickly followed by tabloids like The National Enquirer, that went after Hart and his family like starving wolves attacking a bone. Needless to say, Hart withdrew from the race.
Bringing this painful memory to the screen is one of our favorite directors, Jason Reitman, best known for his 2007 teenage comedy Juno and his very adult drama, Up in the Air (2009). 50-year-old Hugh Jackman perfectly embodies Hart, who was 52 when the shit hit his fan. Vera Farmiga, so good in Up in the Air, plays Lee Hart, the long-suffering “good wife” who stood by him through the whole ordeal. J.K. Simmons (Academy Award-winner for Whiplash) is his equally long-suffering campaign manager trying to tamp out the fires that keep flaming up around his candidate, and the gorgeous Sara Paxton (Twin Peaks) plays the woman who innocently took him down.
It’s hard not to make comparisons to current events when seeing this film. With a serving President who proudly acknowledges to have carried on numerous affairs while married, and let’s not forget his famous boast to “grab them by the pussy,” the Hart scandal seems almost innocuous by today’s standards. But it was enough to force the hopeful candidate back into the private sector, and Hart never ran for office again.
The Front Runner opens on November 21st.