The Front Runner

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Sometimes Hollywood financiers' decisions can seem mysterious. Was there really a huge public demand for the tale of the sex scandal that derailed Colorado Sen. Gary Hart's campaign for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination?

The viewer of The Front Runner can't help but feel she's being told something that is meant to be relevant to Donald Trump—perhaps something about the modern vulgarization of the race for the White House. Hart, portrayed by Hugh Jackman as a dedicated public servant with an overdeveloped sense of privilege, thought his personal life should be off limits to reporters. At the time, that wasn't an unreasonable expectation; many of the reporters in the movie seem inclined to agree. But would we be better off if every politician's private behaviors remained elite secrets?

Jason Reitman's film does not settle the question, but it does make us ponder the value of privacy. Does anyone, famous or obscure, have an absolute right to keep certain personal details—especially those that are hard to discover—out of the public eye? Are Hart's combined qualities of (loosely presented but strongly implied) policy seriousness and personal leadership mojo relevant to the calculation? What about his reckless reactions to rumors of extramarital dalliance?

Intentionally or not, this movie makes you wonder if those who called for ignoring the revelations against Hart were the righteous defenders of civility, or entitled brats who thought they should be allowed to get away with anything.

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