The Kennedys (2011)


Our Rating: 4 out of 5

Rated: TVPG


Reviewer: Ella G.


His presidential legacy is either revered or vilified. The man himself is shrouded by mystery and intrigue. There are questions that, fifty years later, have yet to be answered. This miniseries doesn’t try to answer them and believe it or not, it doesn’t seem to come from a partisan agenda. Rather, it gives you a glimpse into the family of “America’s Royalty,” the Kennedys.


In the fall of 1960, John Fitzgerald Kennedy (Greg Kinnear) is running on the Democratic presidential ticket. It is a family affair. The patriarch of the clan, Joseph Kennedy (Tom Wilkinson) is bossing everyone around, and Bobby (Barry Pepper) is campaign manager. Jackie (Katie Holmes) is already a polarizing figure, and the matriarch, Rose (Diana Hardcastle), supports each and every move her son makes. But underneath the façade that is presented to the media, there is more going on than meets the eye. There are questions about if Daddy has been in cahoots with mob bosses to get his son elected…not to mention that he has plans for every step of the presidency. Bobby doesn’t really want to be in Washington, let alone at the beck and call of his father’s bidding in regards to the campaign. Jackie is struggling with her husband’s indiscretions and infidelities, especially knowing their family’s every move will be reported in the press. Jack is seeking to find his own voice, yet the pain and agony of Addison’s Disease weighs heavily on him. And Rose has her own problems with her husband’s dalliances. Such is the setting from where we see the Kennedys’ legacy unfold.


It isn’t an easy world any of them step into: Civil Rights movements are raging in the South, mob bosses are flourishing, the Soviet Union is seeking to expand its socialism and nuclear weapons into other countries, Cuba is a powder keg just ninety minutes away from United States borders… add the drama of their personal lives and it makes for a very entertaining eight hours of television. The first way I heard of this series was when I found out it was axed by History Channel. I made the assumption that it was either too raunchy for that channel or too controversial. I read mixed reviews about it, the acting, the script, etc. Can I say I didn’t think it was half bad? In fact, I quite enjoyed it. But if you aren’t a history buff, you will probably be bored by it. Most of the film, obviously, is centered on the key events of Kennedy’s Administration—the Bay of pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, his assassination, even Bobby’s assassination in 1968. The film covers the family from WWII and JFK’s military exploits to the Democrat Primary of 1968. It really is a fascinating time period to study and the thing that surprised me was that it seemed to presents the facts as is, without embellishment or political leaning to one particular side of the aisle.


It is a known fact that JFK had many affairs with women, including one by the name of Marilyn Monroe… but the affairs are neither excused nor glorified. We see him kissing women but before anything begins to become intimate, the scene changes. And never do we see Marilyn and Jack together—her scenes transpire with Bobby; she tries to make a pass at him, which virtually goes nowhere. There is no nudity and virtually no innuendo. The family is depicted as true to what we know about them: Dad is shown as the behind the scenes-mover and shaker-he was, and how his debilitating stroke destroyed him. We see how Rosemary Kennedy (Jack’s younger sister) descended into her mental state because of lobotomy. The agony of Jack and Jackie losing their son to premature birth in 1963 is one of the most poignant scenes of the miniseries. We even see the beautiful marriage of Bobby and his wife Ethel (with whom he had eleven children)—they were one of my favorite storylines to watch. I even shed a few tears—as shocking as it is for me to admit—at Kennedy’s funeral; I felt what most of the world did in 1963.


Was it perfect? No, mostly because to its determent, the miniseries abuses Jesus’ name about a dozen times. Is the script worthy of an Emmy? No, but it is better than I anticipated. Was the casting spot on? Yes, at least when it comes to the main characters. They could have gotten someone, or used more makeup, to look more like Frank Sinatra (who was connected with the Kennedy clan) or Peter Lawford (married to a Kennedy for a period of several years.) Was it historically accurate? I think so, though it has made me want to do some research, just because I’m that sort of person. One has to draw their own conclusions as they view this miniseries. Mine are a bit confusing—the man isn’t perfect and I don’t agree with most of his policies, but I found the entire family fascinating. Perhaps this interest will only last as long as my first research book, yet isn’t that what a historical film is supposed to do? See what happens to you as you watch and get to know The Kennedys.