When Ron Howard’s big screen adaptation of the Peter Morgan play, Frost/Nixon, opens two weeks from today, a round of hosannas will greet the film’s leads, Frank Langella (who plays the 37th POTUS in exile) and Michael Sheen (who plays talk show host David Frost). But here’s hoping that some of the acclaim will be reserved for Kevin Bacon, who is by turns droll and downright creepy as Jack Brennan, the former Marine colonel who served as Nixon’s chief aide in the immediate years after his resignation. Watch carefully, for instance, for a scene in which Bacon delivers his opinion of Frost’s Gucci loafers (“effeminate”), his tight face mixing amusement and controlled rage for everything he deems even remotely countercultural.
Since his breakout nearly a quarter century ago in Footloose, Bacon has had limited success as a lead. But the highly prolific (they didn’t name a parlor game after him for nothing) actor has amassed one of the most impressive bodies of character work of any actor in his generation. And in Frost/Nixon, Bacon shows once again how effective he can be at the margins. As the ultimate loyalist to the ultimate malfeasant, he is an even better example than his showboating boss of the old Hannah Arendt chestnut—that evil is sold in banal packaging.—Benjamin Strong