Impeachment: American Crime Story (2021) Review



Impeachment features some fantastic performances and makeup but drags in the initial half of the series.

Plot: President Bill Clinton (Clive Owen) is impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice concerning his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein).

Review: So far, American Crime Story seems to be trying to chronicle every notable story from the mid-to-late nineties.  We had O.J., the murder of Versace and now the Bill Clinton affair.  Like most people alive during this era, I was moderately aware of the White House dalliance, though I didn’t realize Clinton was impeached.  I just thought it was another celebrity fiasco playing out on television screens worldwide.

Well, that is true, and it isn’t.  The series suggests there were a lot more nefarious shenanigans at play, at least on the part of Clinton.  I have to say, the former president doesn’t come off exceptionally well during this series – in fact, it’s suggested he’s somewhat of a monster.  I find it curious, especially considering the amount of grief another recent former president received for much of the same actions, albeit Clinton is demonstratively less abrasive.  Still, I won’t look at Bill Clinton the same again.

The problem with this series is the first half is too long and not that interesting.  Some of that is as a result of the characters.  Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky just aren’t that likeable.  Both come off, in different ways, as delusional and self-serving.  Tripp believes she is doing the morally right thing, even though it’s obviously personal grievances that propel her actions.  Lewinsky is incredibly naïve and obsessive about her relationship with Clinton.  Add in Clinton’s manipulative persona, Edie Falco’s ice-cold Hilary and publisher Lucianne Goldberg’s vapid dialogue, and there’s very little to like.  Only Paula Jones, who seems to be a clueless pawn to her domineering husband and Judith Light, who plays an agenda-driven conservative “friend” to the hapless Jones, has any sympathy.

That isn’t to say the acting is terrible or anything.  Sarah Paulson demonstrates why she is one of the best actresses today as Tripp.  The makeup on Paulson is so good, you won’t recognize her.  However, Paulson also plays Tripp to the hilt, exhibiting numerous ticks and eccentricities that bury her in the role.  Clive Owen is barely recognizable as Clinton and gets the former president’s trademark drawl down perfectly.  Cobie Smulders embodies radical conservative Ann Coulter to the point that you think you’re looking at the real deal.  There are numerous great performances throughout the series.

As for Lewinsky herself, I think Beanie Feldstein does a bang-up job of playing the out-of-her-depth Monica.  While she can get annoying, going on endlessly about the president, there’s an endearing vulnerability to her that plays out, especially in episode six, which was simply hilarious.  It helps that Colin Hanks is also in the episode, and his deadpan reactions to the insanity unfolding around him make things ten times better.  I have to mention, too, Annaleigh Ashford disappears into the Paula Jones role and displays a profound range from her more sophisticated role in The Assassination of Gianni Versace.

As for the cinematography and settings, it’s pretty spartan and non-descript.  I think that was done intentionally, but if you’re looking for a visual treat, you won’t get it here.  The buildings are utilitarian and unimpressive, for the most part.  Only the White House itself stands out in that regard.

Inevitably, there’s enough to like about this series for me to recommend to people to watch it.  The central performances across the board are terrific, and I feel like they did justice to their real-life counterparts.  The series should have been shorter as I think there’s too much emphasis on the Tripp/Lewinsky relationship, but there’s some good stuff in here, and I think you’ll find it overall interesting and entertaining.