Impeachment: American Crime Story TV Review

We review Impeachment, the latest entry in American Crime Story starring Sarah Paulson, Beanie Feldstein and Clive Owen.

Plot: Impeachment: American Crime Story is a limited series examining the national crisis that led to the first impeachment of a U.S. President in over a century. It tells this story through the eyes of the women at the center of the events: Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein), Linda Tripp (Sarah Paulson), and Paula Jones (Annaleigh Ashford). All three were thrust into the public spotlight during a time of corrosive partisan rancor, shifting sexual politics, and a changing media landscape. The series shows how power lifts some and disposes of others in the halls of our most sacred institutions.

Review: Just last week, we got the first new season of American Horror Story in two years. Now, we have the return of that anthology’s first spin-off, American Crime Story. To date, only two seasons of the true-crime series have aired consisting of a look at the trial of O.J. Simpson followed by the murder of Gianni Versace. The newest entry in American Crime Story has been in development for several years dating back to 2017 and focuses on the impeachment of Bill Clinton. But, in true Ryan Murphy fashion, the story is not focused on the characters you may think. With Monica Lewinsky on board as a producer and consultant, Impeachment puts the focus squarely on the female side of the story and delivers an unflattering portrait of one of the most damning events in modern political history.

Impeachment brings back many of Murphy’s repertoire of actors, including Sarah Paulson and Billy Eichner, but also brings in a cast of some of the most recognizable faces in the industry to play these real people. With Clive Owen as Bill Clinton and Edie Falco as Hillary Clinton, Beanie Feldstein as Monica Lewinsky, Cobie Smulders as Anne Coulter, and many more, this cast was not selected for their physical resemblance to their counterparts but rather by choosing actors who could carry the weight of this material. Not nearly as pulpy as other Ryan Murphy productions, Impeachment is a serious look at a definitive moment in American politics and yet doesn’t really do much beyond what we already know.

Over the first three episodes of the series, we spend a predominant amount of time with Linda Tripp (Sarah Paulson), who is made out to be the true villain of the scandal. Paulson, who gained substantial weight for the role, portrays Tripp as someone over-confident in their abilities who is striving for fame and recognition and is not afraid to step on anyone to get there. She befriends Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein), a naive young woman who is blindly in love with President Clinton despite advice from everyone around her. We also meet Paula Jones (Annaleigh Ashford), one of Clinton’s earlier conquests, who is manipulated by those around her including her husband (Taran Killan). All of these women are central while the Clintons are mere supporting players as the story reframes what we know from the news and tabloids into a tale of betrayal and backstabbing.

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Clive Owen, who vacillates between a solid impression of Clinton and a caricature of the former President, is understated here and used sparingly enough that his screen time supports the truly excellent performance of Feldstein. But, this series is once again a showcase for Sarah Paulson who continues to prove she can play virtually any role. Linda Tripp is a deeply unlikeable person in this story and it is not until the middle episodes of the series (the first seven of ten total episodes were made available for this review) that the true depth of her betrayal of Monica Lewinsky becomes apparent. But, beyond what we see directly of their involvement with the impeachment, we learn virtually nothing about these women and who they are. That very well may be intentional to show how much the scandal overtook their lives, but it is also something of a disservice to trying to retell this story from a new direction.

Created and scripted by Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander, the team behind biopics Man on the Moon and The People Vs. Larry Flynt, Impeachment invests so much attention to making every mid-1990s detail perfect that this series balances precipitously on the border between drama and camp. Many Ryan Murphy series push into the camp factor and it works, but I continued to feel that this series needed to stay away from any sort of dark humor and expose this tale for what it was. It ends up feeling more like a cautionary tale that is even more bittersweet coming on the heels of the Trump administration which is skewered throughout the subtext of this series.

Whereas the first two seasons of American Crime Story chronicled famous events and managed to find unique perspectives to add to what we already knew, Impeachment feels unnecessary despite some truly solid casting. There are moments here that made me sit up and take notice, but overall this series doesn’t do nearly enough to make it stand out. For anyone who was not glued to their televisions when the impeachment unfolded in real-time, this is certainly an intriguing look at how the Clinton-Lewinsky debacle unfolded. But, short of the involvement from Lewinsky herself, this is ten episodes that feel like a retread of a story told multiple times already. It is good, but not as good as it should have been.

Impeachment: American Crime Story premieres September 7th on FX.

Source: JoBlo.com

About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.