Reviewed on 2011 January 11
Another cameo-laden Oliver Stone film, telling the life of the Richard Milhous from his early days, and culminating in his resignation.
The film starts with the initial reports on Watergate and shows a worn Nixon (Anthony Hopkins, scooping up a Best Actor nod like candy) trying to destroy those 18 minutes of tape. It shows all his flaws, from his looking like death warmed over compared to Kennedy, to his truly ugly jealousies, ruthlessness and insecurities. It also shows his love for his wife, the done-with-it-all Pat (Joan Allen). Stone covers Nixon’s relationship with his Quaker family, especially his guilt-inducing mother Hannah (Mary Steenburgen) and strict father, showing the audience where he likely got a lot of his neuroses. It doesn’t sugarcoat him or excuse what he did, but for story-telling purposes it gives him a level of humanity most biographies omit. The bit where he meets with Mao Tse-Tung is kind of like watching a chess match. As usual, the details are nice too: Hopkins conveyed Nixon with his posture and speech, but once the make-up team got done with Paul Sorvino, I didn’t even recognize him as Kissinger.
Three chocolate morsels. Yes, Nixon was a despicable president, but the story is fascinating and Stone tells it well.