I’m sincerely interested in the period of time where America’s raging war on Communism led them to such extremes as to blacklist any writer or actor that had any left leaning thoughts. The Front then should be quite the film for me, especially since an all-time favourite of mine, Woody Allen, stars as Howard Price, the frontman for writer Alfred Miller (Michael Murphy). Here we see a rare leading performance from Allen that doesn’t also go hand in hand with a piece of direction. His only other noteworthy work that I’ve seen so far is that of the ever strong Play it Again, Sam, which boasts yet another strong Allen performance.
Price is definitely one of the more interesting roles Allen has played, especially at this early point in his career. Coming at a time before Annie Hall, what makes his performance so great here is that it is unlike any other performance he has given. The neuroticisms of his own writing are placed onto different characters, and instead we get to see an on form and out of type Allen, portraying a much more cocky and desperate character than we’ve seen before. T’s certainly the change in pace I needed for performances of his level, and it’s always nice to see him try new veins of comedic worry. His work here is some of his strongest to date.
Zero Mostel gives a superb supporting performance, in one of his final film roles. Written, directed and featuring those who were affected by the blacklist set upon Hollywood, The Front takes the effects of the blacklist to the limelight. We see the stress and strain that it puts on the industry, from those that are blacklisted to those around them. How the film portrays those that are blacklisted, and how dependant studios were on these blacklisted individuals is portrayed spectacularly well. It feels natural, and we’re given a timeline that sees the highs and lows of several characters.
For all the exceptional performances the, it’s a shame that the direction is uninspired and gives us nothing more than a handful of truly interesting scenes. From formerly blacklisted director Martin Ritt comes a project that brings out enjoyable performances from a cast of truly funny individuals, but feels much more generic than it should have done. Managing to avoid the expected anger and rage that Ritt and his fellow blacklisted crew must have towards Hollywood, The Front manages to give us a truly enjoyable piece of film concerning a darker period in the history of L.A.