Monday, January 1, 2007
JFK: Reckless Youth
Source Material: JFK: Reckless Youth by Nigel Hamilton
Director: Harry Winer
Teleplay by: William Broyles Jr.
Made for Television
Patrick Dempsey: John F. Kennedy
Terry Kinney: Joseph P. Kennedy
Loren Dean: Joe Kennedy, Jr.
Yolanda Jilot: Inga Arvad
Robin Tunney: Kathleen 'Kick' Kennedy
Andrew Lowery: Lem Billings
Stan Cahill: Torb Macdonald
Claire Forlani: Ann Cannon
Malachy McCourt: Honey Fitz
Diana Scarwid: Rose Kennedy
A solid biopic in the classic mold. JFK: Restless Youth covers Kennedy's life from 1936, when he was a student at Choate, to 1945, when he ran for a congressional seat in Massachusetts, using flashbacks to fill in key elements of his earlier childhood. The particular strength of this film is that it explores the elements that formed the young Kennedy, allowing the audience to draw comparisons to the older man. The central conflict comes from the fact that young Jack is sandwiched between a highly competitive older brother and a emotionally abusive father. While his brother and father use bullying to get their way, young Jack learns the value of humor and charm. This, of course, becomes one of the key elements of his personality.
Outstanding performances across the board; Dempsey, Kinney, and Tunney are particularly good. While Patrick Dempsey doesn't look very much like JFK, he does a great job of capturing the accent and mannerisms of the young Kennedy. The same goes for Terry Kinney, who displays the charm and mercurial temper that made Joseph Kennedy simultaneously powerful and one of the most reviled politicians of his day. Finally, Tunney manages to completely occupy her role, turning what is essentially a bit role into a major part of the story.
In terms of historical accuracy, the film does a fairly decent job of remaining true to its source material. In fact, I detected only one chronological inaccuracy: it moved the date of Rosemarie Kennedy's lobotomy up a few years for dramatic contrast. Beyond that, it ignores a few events, such as JFK's brief sojourn at Stanford and the London School of Economics, and minorly changes a few others, such as the fact that Kennedy wandered around Europe with Lem Billings, not Torb Macdonald. I could only find one major anachronism: when JFK goes to the basement to get his uniform, he passes an Evian box. Evian was not available in the United States until the 1980's.
Overall, however, it is a highly accurate and thought-provoking biopic.
JFK (praying): Dear God, make me good...one day. Amen.
Lem Billings (his roommate): That's a perfect prayer for you, Ken. You're a bad influence. I'd never get in trouble if it weren't for you.
On board the PT 109:
JFK: Tell me, Randall: is there anything about me you don't like besides me being a rich, yankee, Catholic, Ivy League officer?
Randall: Well, that pretty much covers it, but I could probably come up with some more if you give me a while, Sir.
JFK: Well, take all the time you need. It's going to be a long war.
Physical resemblance: 4/10
Historical Accuracy: 7/10
Production Values: 8/10