I have read some really scathing reviews about the The Kennedys. A bit mean. They say that the sets are rubbish and that Jackie’s dresses are “ugly”. Blimey, sexist or what? No mention of the men’s clothes. The sets are supposedly “secondary” as compared to the standard that ” we have come to expect from such shows as Mad Men” the critics say. Yes, but an Advertising agency would necessarily have to look a bit Arty, i propose.
I do declare that Roger Stirling’s office all in white with those fabulous chairs and the Bridget Riley dot painting on the wall must have been the most beautiful room i have ever see. Roger had style. His room even went with his hair! Still i digress.
The sets and the styling in The Kennedys are secondary to the drama. Apparently the show was dropped in the US as there was a fuss that it wasn’t “historically authentic”. It’s a docu-drama though so we know that it’s not a documentary.
However it was originally on the History Channel which would lead one to regard it as a documentary perhaps. Here in the UK it is on BBC2. If it was all News Reel and a voice over that truly would be a documentary. Once you turn something into a drama surely artistic license applies?
Anyway i like The Kennedys. Katie Holmes is very good and surprisingly affecting as the sorrowful and trapped wife. Her life is claustrophobic and cloistered. Jackie is forever sequestered separately from her husband, the day to day plotting and politics, and the interesting government happenings.
Every scene we see of Jackie is either with other women and children or forlornly gazing into her bedroom mirror. She is warned by her own mother not to marry this Kennedy as he is a “serial womaniser, like all the men in that family, the father too”.
Her mother really lays it on the line. As often happens in these sort of period dramas the older middle class women seem to spend a lot of time sitting on a lawn in a chair drinking. Usually Gin & Tonic or “G & T”. They probably had nothing else remotely fun to do or anywhere else they could go.
Sadly but realistically, beautiful and radiant Jackie smiles dismissively at this sage advice, “But i love him!” she says. Ah, yes, the ageless refrain of misguided women in love throughout the centuries..
In twin scenes we see the painful realisation dawn on Jackie that her husband is indeed off philandering again when she calls for him on the telephone late one night and he is nowhere to be found. Similarly in an extremely painful scene for the matriarch of the Kennedy family Rose, who has a spine of steel and skin as thick as an elephant, is forced to watch her elderly husband actually kissing his young assistant right in front of her.
You wait, angered, on Rose’s behalf (well i was) expecting Rose to yell, scream even hit or slap somebody over this. Yet Rose says nothing, back like a ramrod and seemingly ten foot tall, she waits in silence until they finish and then politely bids the female assistant “Good night”!
Such was life for a good Catholic wife and a Kennedy apparently. Joe, the head of the family and creator of the whole political dynasty of the family tells Jackie:
“there is no leaving for a Kennedy, nor a Catholic wife, there is no divorce”. That was the Catholic way then. Indeed the Catholic church did not recognise divorce and if you did divorce you were ex-communicated from the Church.
I enjoy the human interest eg. Jackie’s story plus learning about the history of that period through the newsreels. (Not admitting whether i was on this mortal coil then) Sadly the story is overshadowed somewhat by everybody knowing that John is going to be shot. However this is a natural dramatic device built into the tale. A gift if you like for a storyteller..