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Camelot, Python-style

Saturday 14 April 2012

In the stage version of Camelot, the story and the characters are pretty conventional–Arthur is noble but tragic, Lancelot is noble but a bit narcissistic, and Guinevere is torn between the two. Something like this is the basis for the view of the Kennedy White House.

The Python-esque view of Camelot, from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, is a bit sillier. This is the view of the Kennedys one gets from Ethel, a new film about the life and times of Ethel Kennedy as filmed by her youngest child, Rory.

It’s a charming film, all about the an incredibly supportive wife and children, all of whom are interviewed for the film, in one of America’s most prolific political families. You’re not going to learn any new (or old) dirt about the family; as an insiders’ story, it paints a completely flattering picture. But as a piece that is largely one-on-one interviews done en famille, it brings a closeness and intimacy that an outside filmmaker probably would not have gotten.

There is, of course, a lot of text about Robert F. Kennedy, and a bit about John F. Kennedy, but these are largely unavoidable. Ethel Kennedy’s position as the devoted wife makes her story inseparable from her husband’s and his brother’s. Still, this text is not overbearing; it’s just part of the story. The politics are mostly about how the events of the campaigns, events in the White House, and assassinations affected Ethel and the children. The pace of the movie is evenly spread along the timeline from roughly the early 1945 and some prior background on the parents, through the late 1960s, with a little expansion into the present day.

Recommended for its alternate view into the Kennedys; highly recommended if you grew up anytime between 1930 and 1965 Irish, Catholic, or both. Watch for it later this year on HBO, the prime distributor.

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