WILL BEAT ANY
PRICE FROM ANY 'Nixon'
CONTRACTOR OR T
hank goodness for credible
historians and Oliver Stone;
we'll still have Richard
Nixon to kick around. I have
to be careful here to critique the
film and not the man, although
director Stone's latest opus, a
three-hour Rorschach test, im-
pressively captures, humanizes
protestors. Shock cuts like X-rays
of Nixon's soul. Ominous clouds
speeding at high velocity over cap-
ital buildings in a Koyaanisqati-
like "nature out of control" apoc-
alyptic vision. An eerie atonal
score by John Williams comple-
ments the Dutch angles (used to
great effect in the original
Frankenstein movie) of the White
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Anthony Hopkins stars as Richard M. Nixon with Joan Allen as his indomitable wife,
Pat, in Oliver Stone's newest opus, Nixon.
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and vilifies Nixon.
For those of you expecting a his-
tory lesson, look elsewhere. These
events are too recent in memory,
particularly around the baby-
boomer Vietnam draft generation,
to require much elaboration. The
events in this film — the Check-
ers speech, Alger Hiss, the
Kennedy debates, Pentagon pa-
pers, Watergate break-in, White
House tapes - are all
indelibly etched in our
Stone's other bio pic, JFK, was
soundly criticized for its willing-
ness to lend credence to a multi-
tude of sensational conspiracy
theories. Not so with Nixon; Stone
has annotated the bookstore ver-
sion of the script with documen-
tation to support the many stages
of the Nixon political era and the
many faces of Nixon.
The film plays like Shake-
spearean tragedy, going back to
Nixon's humble origins, his rela-
tionship with his mother, father
and two siblings who died of tu-
berculosis. Stone handles these
details with stunning juxtaposi-
tions, flashbacks to grainy black
and white footage that clatters
and blurs as it slips through the
projection gate. Nixon under in-
terrogation by his mother (Mary
Steenburgen), Nixon as a tackling
dummy at Whittier College,
Nixon as Pat's young suitor who
proposed on their first date, sig-
nifying he was more impetuous
than we might have thought.
This film contains hallucinato-
ry flashes of brilliance — the Re-
publican National Convention
floor dissolving in ) a field of war
Nixon subverts his marriage to
political gain, sacrifices his hench-
men to ward off his inquisitors, .
spews anti-Semitism, records his
delusional paranoia, and quar-
terbacks his own downfall. He
should have remained a Whittier
In one of the film's more earnest
scenes, Nixon, attempting to gain
moral sustenance, is driven to
the Lincoln Memorial. Scores of
college-age protestors litter the
steps. Approached by them, Nixon
disassociates, rambles about foot-
ball, his youth, and finally, cor-
nered, attempts to justify the
Vietnam War with platitudes.
Youth can see right through him
and their distrust is palpable.
Those expecting a sampling of
the breadth or depth of Nixon's in-
tellect and reputed political as-
tuteness will be disappointed.
Instead, we see the paradox of
power — wanting it, getting it,
and fighting its loss with Machi-
Anthony Hopkins is splendid
as Nixon, conjuring his posture,
his mannerisms, his speech, his
sweaty upper lip. He is the dark-
ness, seeking the darkness. He is
helped enormously by Joan Allen
(Pat Nixon) who delivers some of
the most withering lines in the
When Nixon refuses to surren-
der the incriminating White
House tapes, Pat tells him, "Burn
them." "They're mine," Nixon
says. Pat with laser-sharp tongue
replies, "The tapes are not yours
.. they are you."
— Dick Roc1z4,Lz