Kennedys [Blu-ray] [Import]
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The most famous family in American history comes to life in this epic 8-part miniseries event.
Inspired by one of the world s most iconic families, this eight-part scripted drama/miniseries ventures upstairs at the White House to chronicle the saga of America s first royal family during the 1960s. Through exhaustive research, THE KENNEDYS provides an intimate look at how Joseph Kennedy, Sr. shaped his sons John and Robert to become two of the most influential men in America s history. With political events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, Bay of Pigs and the civil rights movement playing background to the personal stories of the relationships between brother and brother and father and son, THE KENNEDYS details how the two men handled their father, whose ambition exceeded their own, and ultimately made them who they were. THE KENNEDYS recounts the scandal, tragedy, public greatness and private frailty of our nation s most fabled political family during one of the most momentous decades in history.
- 45 minute featurette The Kennedys: From Story to Film
- Behind-the-scenes footage
- Cast and crew interviews
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If anything, this miniseries is guilty of being an old fashioned TV product--a throw back to the days before cable ruled the adult viewing audience. In fact, for that reason alone, the presentation is surprisingly tepid--in other hands, this might have been turned into a piece worthy of controversy. Okay, I promise to get off my soapbox now and talk about the actual film. Shot in eight bite sized nuggets (I mean episodes), "The Kennedys" does not purport to be a comprehensive biography. Each episode tends to have a central theme or plot point and hits the appropriate historical markers with precision. It is not an in-depth look at either history or politics, but rather a glossy overview of recognizable historical moments amidst soap opera turmoil. It is an entertaining, if superficial, peak at the intricacies inherent in being involved as a power player in media and politics.
Far more intriguing than the paint by numbers romp through history is the cast. Tom Wilkinson is absolutely magnetic as family patriarch Joe. Had this aired on a network other than Reelz, there is no doubt in my mind that he would have been under Emmy scrutiny. Fiery, uncompromising, meticulous, and riddled with ambition--this is a star turn from one of our best actors. Diana Hardcastle, as matriarch Rose, doesn't have as much screen time--but hers is an equally vivid performance. A fine combination of haughty and devout, I think I laughed at just about everything she says--a true scene stealing role. Greg Kinnear acquits himself well handling the complexities of JFK while Barry Pepper turns in a terrific performance as Bobby. Only Katie Holmes (and I'm not a hater) falls a bit short, for my taste, with the overly breathy Jackie. The supporting cast is enlivened by some solid turns and famous faces. Sinatra, Monroe, Hoover, and Giancana (among others) are all nicely done.
"The Kennedys," again while capitalizing on more colorful aspects of the story, never commits the sin of being dull. And, in truth, that's its greatest accomplishment. The story is so familiar, I was hesitant to revisit yet another tale of America's First Family. But I'm glad I did--mainly for the able and game cast who really seem to come across as related. A special mention goes out to the make-up team--with slight modifications, Pepper and Kinnear look the part while still being recognizable. If you go into this thinking it will be "too hot for TV," you'll likely be disappointed. This is a classic network TV style miniseries that is well done. KGHarris, 4/11.
Well, it wasn't a smear job, and reportedly the History Channel pulled out because the Kennedys put pressure on them. But it also wasn't the great American epic that you would expect -- its stately beginning and exploration of the world-changing effects of the Kennedy administration are marred by a rushed ending and lackluster direction.
The miniseries follows the Kennedy family as John F. Kennedy (Greg Kinnear) is elected as the President of the United States, with the help of his bombastic father Joe Sr. (Tom Wilkinson) and his devoted brother Bobby (Barry Pepper). But JFK had many obstacles, both personal and professional -- he's crippled by a bad back, his father made many enemies, and his marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (Katie Holmes) was troubled.
And over the course of his administration, the Kennedy brothers grapple with Cuba, Russia, riots over civil rights for African-Americans, and chasing down the mob. But there are also many personal crises -- drug use, a baby's death, Joe Sr.'s stroke -- that they struggle to deal with, until the shocking assassinations that destroyed both men.
First off: is "The Kennedys" a smear job? Answer: no, it is not. However, it contains a lot of material that the Kennedy family doesn't like to publicize despite its truth: Rosemary Kennedy's lobotomy, the frequent infidelity by Joe Sr. and Jack, the First Family's drug use, and the fact that Joe Sr. wasn't above using crooked associations to get what he wanted.
However, the miniseries is a fair and sympathetic look at the Kennedy clan overall. The first five episodes are slow, stately and careful, outlining some of the major events of the Kennedy administration, and adding in flashbacks to show some of the family's history (such as the death of Joe Jr.). It's actually pretty amusing, although the direction is pretty lackluster, and painfully maudlin during emotional moments.
However, about five episodes in, the producers seemed to suddenly realize, "Yikes, we have only a few hours to wrap everything up! We'll have to smush everything to make it fit!" The last few episodes are HORRIBLY rushed -- the Marilyn affair takes up about ten minutes max (with no "happy birthday" song), and Bobby's entire presidential campaign is squashed into the final twenty minutes. The poor guy deserved more than that.
As for the actors, they're a mixed bag. Wilkinson and Diana Hardcastle are absolutely pitch-perfect as Joe and Rose Kennedy. Pepper and Kinnear don't look anything like their real-life counterparts, but they both give good performances -- Pepper is particularly good as the devout "good boy" who struggles to do the right thing, and he is the saving grace of the last two episodes.
The worst part, hands down? That would be Katie Holmes, who doesn't have the elegance, poise or grace to play Jacqueline Kennedy. And she has only three acting modes: pouty, smiley and blank.
"The Kennedys" is certainly a miniseries worth watching, especially since it highlights part of the Kennedy family's past that are often left unilluminated. But that doesn't mean it couldn't have used another two episodes and a better Jackie.