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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Nixon

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Joan Allen
Director: Oliver Stone
Rated: R
RunTime: 191 Minutes
Release Date: December 1995
Genre: Drama

Review by Andrew Hicks
3 stars out of 4

With NIXON, Oliver Stone's three-hour follow-up to JFK, one more president is crossed off the list of epic biopics. I don't know about you, but I can hardly wait for TAFT. Until then, however, we've got this piece of work, starring Anthony Hopkins as Richard Nixon. Hopkins contributes an amazing performance, painting Nixon as a man almost as paranoid and conspiracy-minded as Stone himself. Hopkins sounds a lot like Nixon, but his visual appearance is a bizarre meld between how he normally looks and the famous Nixon jowls and hairline.

NIXON covers pretty much the whole life of the disgraced President, beginning with the bungled Watergate break-in and flashing back to his first Presidential campaign (including a re-enactment of the famous TV debate with Kennedy), his football days and even early home life. We discover Mama Nixon (Mary Steenburgen) talked in the King James English of thee's and thou's, while Papa Nixon's solution for everything was to beat his kids with a belt. With an upbringing like this, it's no wonder Nixon has conversations with the Lincoln Memorial.

In a massive epic worthy of Tricky Dick himself, Stone traces a seemingly failed career, two presidential administrations and a near-impeachment in the visual style he's become famous for, mixing odd camera angles and switching between black-and- white and color. It's not as innovative or effective here as in JFK but also not as annoying or overdone as in NATURAL BORN KILLERS. Stone makes it known upfront that he's taken liberties with history in telling the story, but mixes in enough real news clips and celebrity look-alikes (including Henry Kissinger and Mao-Tse Tung) to make it seem convincing.

Joan Allen does particular justice to the role of Pat Nixon, longsuffering wife of a crazed man who never calls her anything but "Buddy" and keeps promising a happy marriage at the next stage of his career, until finally they both reach the top and things are worse than ever. Ed Harris (as Howard Hunt), Bob Hoskins (shedding his English accent and donning a French maid uniform for the role of J. Edgar Hoover), David Paymer (Ron Zeigler) and Ed Harris (E. Howard Hunt) are also standouts in assuming the roles of real-life Nixon associates. NIXON is the movie that proves Oliver Stone should stick to long, surreal biographies of American presidents rather than Generation X slasher satire.

Copyright 1996 Andrew Hicks

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