(On Cable TV, June 2019) As a political junkie, I’m a natural audience for the kind of political docufiction such as The Front Runner—which joins the slew of HBO political movies, and similar titles such as Shock and Awe. But let’s be careful—The Front Runner is a dissection of the Gary Hart adultery scandal of 1988 without much of a political axe to grind, except for looking at the inner workings of a campaign in crisis mode, as a sympathetic candidate is ultimately brought down by an affair. The good news is that the film can boast of an impressive cast (an older Hugh Jackman, and fine character work by Vera Farmiga and J. K. Simmons), a competent director (Jason Reitman, keeping the mayhem moving at an understandable pace) and some good production values taking us back to 1988. There are a few good moments despite the story being chronologically rearranged for impact and a few crucial details (such as Hart’s comeback campaign a few months later) being left unmentioned. But The Front Runner does have issues. In having to follow facts, it does run out of narrative steam in its last act as the candidate can’t quite grasp the trouble he’s in, and all that’s left after the mid-movie confrontations and investigative work are the recriminations and the throwing of the towel. Perhaps more problematic is the film’s thematic development—considering that much of the last act is a back-and-forth between a sympathetic candidate and a combative media, it’s a natural occasion to examine questions of ethics, monogamy, or whether personal issues affect leadership. Alas, that’s when the film turns ambivalent, neither arguing forcefully for a position nor making points that would be relevant to a contemporary audience. (Considering a current administration that’s so stained with overlapping scandals that none of them seem to stick, there would have been a golden opportunity here to make relevant parallels.) The Front Runner ends up feeling non-committed, muddled, anticlimactic. As a political junkie, I still like it… but there was a better movie here trying to get out—even if it does get some recognition for not straying too far away from the facts.