The Kennedys (Mini-Series)
What impressed me most about The Kennedys was the likeness in each character to their real life counterparts. Being a history nut that has seen the shooting and enough homages to the most famous of American families has embedded into my mind the look of John, Bobby and Jackie-O. This movie-series nails them all with the actors and actresses chosen to play each part.
Katie Holmes is almost a dead ringer for Jackie-O and while her oration is a bit suspect at times, you will have to look twice to realize that you aren’t seeing the original version. Greg Kinnear as the hesitant John F. Kennedy, and Barry Pepper as Bobby are both pretty good, but the one who steals the show scene after scene is Tom Wilkinson as Joe Kennedy Sr.
This first episode showcases the famous John F. Kennedy and his beautiful pregnant wife Jackie as they wait hesitantly for the final count to come in for the presidency. John is visibly a man in pain and pops pills like no tomorrow to curb the annoyance of his back (old war injury). There is a huge flashback and we see that his father Ambassador Joe Kennedy wanted the presidency badly enough to side with Hitler for a time during World War II. When his gamble to back the lying Hitler lands him in hot water, he loses his chance to run for office and instead backs his favorite son Joe.
Ambassador Joe is shown as ruthless, dishonest character who continuously breaks Jack’s (John F. Kennedy) balls for not being like his older brother. John is a playboy and his scandals shed a bad light on his family, a fact that his father doesn’t let him live down. When his brother Joe goes off to war, Jack begs his father to fudge some paperwork to allow him to go fight, and his father hesitantly complies. When a Japanese boat splits Jack’s ship at night, he goes MIA and his father hides the terrible news from his mother. Soon the news comes in that he is alive but critically injured and Jack returns home with a medal for bravery. His brother Joe who had flown 25 combat missions comes back undecorated and jealous of his younger brother. Acting like a real dick, Joe attacks his brother for the medal he feels he didn’t earn and then rushes back off to war to one-up Jack, and ends up dying.
Not long after hearing the news, crying and denouncing God, Joe Kennedy finds Jack to tell him that it’s all up to him now to gain him the presidential seat that he wanted so badly. This is not surprising given the portrayal of Joe Kennedy, while it isn’t stated that the old man is dirty, corrupt, power mad and cold, it is certainly implied. And I love this because the audience should know by now that Joe Kennedy’s past mob affiliation, his willingness to pay people to do things beyond the rules (Jack being okayed to fight in the war as an example) and his manipulative behavior is a herald to the actual man who was not a good person by any means. Tom Wilkinson’s portrayal of the man is powerful, and you hate him as much as his sons do.
While many people may find this show offensive in its portrayal of history, the younger crowd will find it an extremely well-produced ride back to the past to see John F. Kennedy as a son, husband and father. Through the acting of Greg Kinnear, Katie Holmes and Tom Wilkinson, viewers will get to know the president as more than “the young president that was assassinated” and as a human being.
Check out The Kennedys on Reelz Channel and catch the remaining 7 parts this week. Talk about must-see TV, this is it for you fans of history.