There’s more heat in a New York Times putdown of Melania Trump’s wardrobe than in Jason Reitman’s biopic of Gary Hart’s aborted run for a presidential nomination in 1988. Overstuffed with tons of newsroom and campaign chatter, Reitman neglects to give the primary players - Hart and his wife - sufficient opportunity to deal with the complicated and conflicted inner feelings of a man and his wife watching their shot at a brilliant future slip down the drain. And not because of a grand love affair, but rather a casual dalliance with a young and as played here, vapid Donna Rice. In real life, Donna had a fresh–faced prettiness but Reitman casts her as an overly made-up girl who looks more like a lap dancer than a model or pharmaceutical salesman, both of which Donna was.
Hugh Jackman plays Senator Hart as a man who is blinded by his insistence on his right to a private life, with little understanding of the growing power of the press and television to make or break a person’s reputation. One of the best moments in the film is the footage of Johnny Carson summarizing Hart’s tone-deafness as he watches the late nite show. Though he has lived through the revelations of the Kennedy clan and Watergate, he seems baffled by the indignity of the press in hounding him at his home and digging up dirt that was floating on the surface on a boat named Monkey Business. We never see him crumble as he realizes the enormity of his mis-judgment and the enduring price he will pay for that. Strangely, the famous picture of Donna Rice perched on his lap on the cruise to Bimini is never shown. Vera Farmiga does the best she can as Hart’s long-suffering wife Lee who gets a shot at emotional fireworks on the piano, hardly sufficient to satisfy our curiosity.
What I was left with was the observation that at least what the press and public were castigating was Hart’s behavior at the time he was running and his hypocrisy at stressing morality and ethics while he himself was an adulterer. What a far cry from our recent outrage at the alleged behavior of a 17 year old student, 36 years before his nomination for the Supreme Court and 19 years after a sterling academic, political, judicial, social and personal life. How far we have fallen as we now consider that progress.
Have PoliticalMavens.com delivered to your inbox in a daily digest by clicking here