Hopefully those tuning into Monday night's PBS documentary on Bill Clinton were prepared to see a film that was more about scandal than politics. Though Clinton: Episode One ends with the Arkansas native being sworn in as the 42nd president of the United States, it pays great attention to his womanizing ways.
The film opens with his 1998 confession to an inappropriate sexual relationship with 21-year old White House intern Monica Lewinsky. This is a major flaw of the doc. It is as though his entire life and achievements are shrouded in disgrace. Thankfully, the film quickly redeems itself. Clinton is shown getting down on his knees and embracing a woman who's suffering without health insurance.
Later, the film delves into one of Clinton's most life altering experiences: shaking JFK's hand during a trip to the White House. These moments, and there are plenty of them, are entwined with the calamitous portions of his life, like his questionable relationship with Gennifer Flowers (which is brought up a mere 10 minutes into the film).
It may be argued that Clinton's rise to political success is incomparable to that of any President before him. Born into meager circumstances his father passed away before he was born and his working class mother eventually married Roger Clinton. On the surface, it appeared that he was enjoying the comforts of small town life.
In truth, his stepfather's alcoholic tendencies an abusive behavior were destroying the family. Clinton learned to burry this domestic anguish and maintain a positive outlook, well at least that's what the film's psychologists say. This had it benefits. By high school, he had grown into a popular student with dreams of public service and politics.
At times 'Clinton' feels like a special on the E! channel. Yet the majority of what's featured is touching. This is especially true when his relationship with Hilary Rodham is illustrated. It's progressive to portray a marriage marred by public affairs as a strong one and yet the film manages to do so. 'Clinton' provides a rare glimpse at the early stages of the couple's collaboration. Despite the pain she endured while coping with her husband's extramarital affairs, she was devoted to their mutual goals.
The film does a masterful job at giving credit to the woman behind the man. Hilary's selfless support was an essential part of each political campaign that he undertook. It was a combination of his brilliance and her perseverance that led to him becoming the state governor at just 32-years old.
Though a series of setbacks followed, this included evidence of affairs coming to the surface, voters took notice of the charismatic politician with the humble background. Then, in what seemed like a fairytale turn of events, Clinton defeated George H.W. Bush for the presidency in 1992. This is where the first installment of the two-part special ends.
Though the majority of viewers will anticipate the events of Clinton's life, the well-produced film and its abundance of well-chosen footage is sure to captivate.