Nixon (1995)

The success of this long, laborious drama hinges on one thing:  how 
well we believe Anthony Hopkins as President Richard Milhous Nixon.  
As it turns out, the Welsh actor is a mixed blessing for the film.  
Hopkins *interprets* Nixon, instead of impersonating him, and it's 
a performance that's both fascinating and distracting to watch.  He 
captures the fiery gloom of a man who is (presented here as) obses-
sed with death, dying, and loss.  Physically, though, he's all 
wrong for the role.  His accent waivers and his round face and 
stature too easily blends in with the other actors.  And Nixon is 
not a man who should blend in.  

Hopkin's half-success could've worked in a film with a stronger 
momentum.  NIXON drags, due in no small part to director Oliver 
Stone (NATURAL BORN KILLERS).  His constant cutting between film 
stocks and time periods dilutes more than it enhances.  Even his 
trademark blending of fact and fiction-- such as a gonzo scene 
supposing a link between Nixon, a herd of Texas fat cats (led by 
Larry Hagman, no less!), and the JFK assassination-- is less 
distracting than his presumption that the audience is already 
familiar with these events.  NIXON is not a story that should be 

That said, there are pleasures to be had.  Hopkins is great in, oh, 
about half of his scenes.  And he gets to play off an array of 
incredible actors, including Joan Allen, James Woods, J.T. Walsh, 
Powers Boothe, and Paul Sorvino, whose Henry Kissinger looks a 
little too much like Dr. Strangelove to be completely comfortable 
with.  Mein Fuhrer!  Certainly more substantive than the bulk of 
last year's crop-- and a great antidote to the apple-pie patriotism 
of APOLLO 13-- NIXON still lacks the clarity and coherence of a 
great film.  Stone has envisioned Richard Nixon as a tragic figure 
of Shakespearean proportions.  Unfortunately, neither the film, nor 
the central casting, can realize that vision. (Rated "R"/195 min.)

Grade: B-

Copyright 1996 by Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies

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