Does I Am JFK Jr. Really Tell Us Who JFK Jr. Was?
Spike's docuseries takes on the late crown prince of America.
That depends on how interesting you find the Kennedys as a subject generally, or their curse, or contemplating the tortures of fame. John F. Kennedy Jr. himself is, for me, one of those on-in-the-background personages of my tristate-area youth -- Giuliani is another -- in that I paid him little specific attention, but could have reeled off a half-dozen basic facts about the guy just from living near New York City my whole life.
But I still remember the world stopping when that plane went down. I was at a wedding out of town and we all dressed in front of the TV, waiting for word. It was another high-profile air disaster on my father's birthday, too, which was a complete coincidence but also shit I was done with waking up to.
There's something about that family that you have to watch.
I didn't realize I Am... was a Spike series; director Derik Murray has done a handful of them, including films on Evel Knievel and Bruce Lee. Not the highest-profile, but I Am JFK Jr. looks expensive and serious a la an American Experience.
Doin' Your Homework
Viewers less conversant with Kennedy lore -- and, you know, less aged -- than I might find the laying of the JFK Sr. groundwork less tedious; I felt it went on too long, and while it didn't linger overly on Jackie, you could tell it reeeeally wanted to. Again, this entire clan is eminently watchable, but if you don't have enough qua-Jr. material for 90 TV minutes...
One of the interviewees talked about what an ur-New Yorker he was in the end, and I'd never thought about it, but that's true. I think as a city we felt the hole he left more than the rest of the country, his family obviously excepted. "Depression" isn't quite the right word, but I admired what George was trying to be and loyally subscribed until the end.
It's An Outrage!
Talking-head flame-fanning about the crimes of the paparazzi against decency, no, not really.
Intrusive Filmmaker Agenda
As mentioned, a few points at which the film seemed to want to dogleg into a different subject; at other points, you can feel the pressure to pay off the significance and import of "John-John," when the fact is, you can't necessarily separate the meaning and legacy of his life from the way his untimely death truncated them both. Like, is it the potential we're studying -- or the potential of the potential?
That's the nature of the subject more than any angle a filmmaker might take, though.
I've seen just about every possible TV docu on the Kennedys and JFK Sr. -- the dynasty, the assassination, the strange life and times of Ted, you name it -- and much of the footage from his childhood and especially the '70s, I'd never seen before. The materials from the late '80s and '90s look standard.
A pretty impressive roster -- Cindy Crawford, George's first cover George; Mike Tyson, Robert De Niro, Chris Cuomo; various Brown roommates and George editors; Christiane Amanpour -- unblemished by family participation.
I'm not proud of it, but I vanished down a Wikihole about the crash, the cocaine rumors that were the new black for a year afterwards, and so on. Kennedyphiles will probably head off to the Google races after watching.