24 December 1999 | dfranzen70
Tricky Dick and Watergate in a refreshing light!
Much time has passed since the Watergate scandal of 1974. In the present day, we see so many scandals involving upper-crust politicians (including, but not limited to, the President), that we have become jaded to their importance. In 1974, though, this scandal marked the first time a president's authority and character had been publicly questioned. The two main characters are two 15-year-old girls - one the only offspring of a single mother (who is played by Teri Garr) and the other the only sister in a standard nuclear family, complete with a pothead older brother who's about to be drafted. The events of the times are swirling around these two young ladies, but we see them all through their eyes. Some of us know about the events of the early 1970s because we were there, and others of us know about them through history books or from our elders. But now we get to see these events as they pertain to two teenagers. It's interesting how the basic character of a teenager hasn't changed - these girls dismiss Watergate and Vietnam initially and are more concerned with teen idols, school, and, well, teenager stuff. Admittedly, the plot's a little contrived, but it never makes the mistake of taking itself seriously. One of the girls happens to live in the Watergate Hotel, and late one night they both innocently learn of the break-in. They subsequently get to meet many key Watergate players, including Haldemann, Liddy, Wooodward, Bernstein, Kissinger, and, of course, Nixon himself.
The most amazing thing about this script is that while nothing is really historically revised to tell the tale, the girls' characters are used to supply details of these historical events that may answer some old questions. What happened to the section that Nixon's secretary chopped from the illegal tape? Who was Deep Throat, anyway? The 'answers' to these questions will make you laugh.
As for the acting, it's absolutely perfect. Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams are a real treat as the giggly, naive teenage girls. Their characters are very well-written - at no point do they do something that seems out of character. But the biggest treat of all is Dan Hedaya as Nixon. Some people can do Nixon impressions, and some ARE Nixon. Hedaya captures the feel for the ex-President, from his creepy scowl when trying to be friendly to his state of panic when the truth of the scandal finally set in. He's the best thing going in this film, and possibly should be nominated for his work.