November 22, 1963 President John F. Kennedy was shot while riding in an open car with his wife Jackie in Dallas. He died shortly afterwards and it was the end of Kennedy’s presidency, but not the end of the family’s influence politically. The death of his brother really was a turning point for Robert Kennedy. The mini-series that originally aired in 1985 revolves around the political career of John F. Kennedy’s younger brother from triumph to tragedy.
The Kennedys, an Irish Catholic family, were a powerful one. When John F. Kennedy became the first Irish Catholic president of the United States they became the most powerful family in the country. When he was assassinated in 1963 in Dallas that was not the end of this politically involved clan.
After years of working in his brother’s shadow, Robert Kennedy (Brad Davis – Midnight Express, Chariots of Fire) emerged after the assassination of his older brother and decided to run himself for the presidency of the United States.
We begin with Robert courting and then marrying Ethel Skakel (Veronica Cartwright – Alien, The Birds). When his older brother is elected president, John F. Kennedy (Cliff De Young – Glory, The Craft) names Robert as his Attorney General. While in the position Robert wages an almost constant battle against J. Edgar Hoover (Ned Beatty – Toy Story 3, Deliverance), works on the Cuban missile crisis and is involved in the racial tensions going on in the country.
As things seem to quiet down the Kennedy family undergoes a massive tragedy. John is assassinated. Robert is greatly affected, not only personally, as he has lost his brother and another of his brothers, Teddy (James Read – Beaches, Legally Blonde) has a massive accident, but also professionally. He finds that his power has disappeared almost overnight.
At first depressed, Robert then picks himself up by the bootstraps and carries on. He decides to mount his own campaign for the presidency of the United States. It is then that the Kennedy family undergoes its third tragedy in a short period of time.
Brad Davis has the daunting task of playing Robert Kennedy. He walks the tightrope of getting his voice and mannerism without turning it into a caricature.
While the film (or three part mini series) is very interesting it does tend to gloss over some of the negative aspects of this powerful family. There is no mention of Robert’s affair with the hugely popular Marilyn Monroe. The skeletons and scandals are kept firmly in the closet. His reputation as a devoted family man is not challenged. Robert is shown to have loved his kids, family and wife tremendously.
It does delve into the issues that made the man like the Vietnam War, racial tensions, the trial of Jimmy Hoffa, and how J. Edgar Hoover wanted to spy on everyone. This was an era with a lot going on in the U.S. We see how he came to believe in the things he did and how passionate he was in those beliefs.
-Previews of The Pillars of the Earth, Justified: The Complete First Season, Inside Job, The Tillman Story