Our rating: 4 out of 5
reviewed by Charity Bishop
Our rating: 4 out of 5
Known as one of the most glamorous eras in American history, the Kennedy wives were at the foremost of politics and fashion. Known for their influence with the media and on the campaign trail, Jackie, Ethel, and Joan were in the public eye and in the hearts of America. But behind the scenes, all three were tormented by their husband's infidelities and own feelings of inadequacy.
There is nothing more important in the Kennedy family than political ambitions, and all three of the Kennedy sons have aspirations for the presidency. The most attractive and charismatic of the brothers, John (Daniel Hugh Kelly) is the first to make an attempt for the White House. Accompanied by his fashionable wife Jackie (Jill Henesssy), his charming demeanor and good looks rapidly win him influence among the masses and it's not long before the inauguration. Though supportive of her husband in his quest for power, Jackie is suffering from ill health when they become the official First Family. Her husband's notorious relationship with beauty queen Marilyn Monroe has her searching for a way out of the marriage, but there are no divorces in the Kennedy household, and instead she is encouraged to let her husband go her own way.
Her concerns are shared by her fellow sister-in-laws, Ethel (Lauren Holly) and Joan (Leslie Stefanson). The Kennedy men are notorious for their extramarital affairs. Ethel prefers to believe her husband is innocent. Joan merely accepts it. But Jackie is determined not to be made a mockery of. Maintaining a distance from him does little to improve public opinion, and Jackie provides him with incentive: if he does not end his affair with Marilyn, she will file for divorce on the eve of his reelection campaign. What follows is an exploration of the years leading up to and following JFK's assassination, the scandal Jackie was involved in overseas, and the political ambitions and failures of Robert (Robert Knepper) and Ted (Matt Letscher) Kennedy. Though I was raised in a very conservative home and like neither the Kennedy politics nor their immoral lifestyle, The Women of Camelot was a very fascinating and honest glimpse into the lives of one of our country's most complicated presidents.
I believed it would attempt to either vilify or overly praise the Kennedy men, while maintaining that their wives were saints, but that is not the case at all. Each individual is presented as a human that makes mistakes but also maintains strength when it is required of them. You don't even need any political opinions to enjoy the film as an exploration of historical events, for it does not really matter in the long run. It is a story about the tragedies and triumphs in the Kennedy legacy, and may give you understanding for some of the actions of those involved. It does not excuse behavior so much as it reveals it, and in that sense is valuable because it reveals the wounds that immorality can cause. Built up of very powerful performances, all three leading ladies are absolutely astounding. The men are not as explosive on screen but it is difficult to play a historical figure so well remembered, and each did an adequate portrayal. Hennessy in particular is a luminous, mysterious Jackie that makes you understand America's fascination with her. The miniseries covers numerous events in a three-hour time period and that makes it move almost too quickly at times, but not so much so that we lose the emotional impact of certain moments. Marilyn Monroe's breathy voice wishing the president a happy birthday, Jackie removing a bloodstained glove to place her wedding ring on her deceased husband's hand, Joan attempting to come to grips with her alcoholism.
There is not much to be concerned about in means of content. Ethel makes a few sarcastic remarks about her husband's inadequacies on their wedding night. It's implied that all three husbands have been unfaithful. Thematic elements involve two assassinations (one shown, the other referenced) and the aftermath of several deaths, miscarriages, and car crashes. There are a couple mild abuses of deity and a handful of scattered profanities. I think both as a historical film and a personal one, it has much to offer those desiring to know more about the powerful, charismatic, and ultimately tragic legacy of the Kennedys.