Jackie, Ethel, Joan: The Kennedy Women

  • 2001
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Docudrama

World-shaking historical events become the grist for a mill of women's magazine dilemmas in this melodramatic TV mini-series. In tracing the legend of Camelot, Kennedy Era version, this film begins in the 1950s, with politically ambitious John Fitzgerald Kennedy's (Daniel Hugh Kelly) courtship of sophisticated socialite Jacqueline "Jackie" Bouvier (Jill...read more

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Reviewed by Robert Pardi
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World-shaking historical events become the grist for a mill of women's magazine dilemmas in this melodramatic TV mini-series. In tracing the legend of Camelot, Kennedy Era version, this film begins in the 1950s, with politically ambitious John Fitzgerald Kennedy's (Daniel Hugh Kelly) courtship of sophisticated socialite Jacqueline "Jackie" Bouvier (Jill Hennessy). Despite her priviledged background, Jackie initially feels like a fish out of water in this burgeoning Kennedy Dynasty. Forever nudging his sons toward the presidency, patriarch Joe Kennedy (Harve Presnell) oversees every aspect of his children's lives. That includes their marriages, and Jackie isn't as wholeheartedly political a wife as the gregarious Ethel, (Lauren Holly) whose every move is calculated to push her Bobby (Robert Knepper) closer to the White House. But Jackie has an inner core of tensile strength, and manages to adapt to the pressure cooker of life in the White House after JFK wins the 1960 election. Surviving miscarriages and JFK's multiple affairs (including a dalliance with Marilyn Monroe), Jackie forges ahead, unlike sister-in-law Joan (Leslie Stefanson), who proves too fragile to further the political aspirations of Ted Kennedy (Matt Letscher). Through the decades, the Kennedy women endure the assassinations of JFK and Bobby, the Chappaquidick scandal that scuttled Ted's larger political aspirations, changing administrations and a never-ending media spotlight. Unable to cope with public life, Joan divorces Teddy and never remarries; Ethel retreats into official widowhood. Only Jackie remains independent of the Kennedy clan, reinventing herself through remarriage and a publishing career. Fortified by her union with Greek billionaire Aristotle Onassis (Thom Christopher), Jackie ensures a future for herself and her children. With the tone set by Holly's caricature of Ethel, this soap opera threatens to turn into a cartoon about the Kennedy curse. It's like a moving beach book, awash in cliches, as though Jackie Collins had done a "Washington Wives"-style rewrite of William Manchester's Death of a President.

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  • Released: 2001
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: World-shaking historical events become the grist for a mill of women's magazine dilemmas in this melodramatic TV mini-series. In tracing the legend of Camelot, Kennedy Era version, this film begins in the 1950s, with politically ambitious John Fitzgerald K… (more)

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