29 December 2010 | dudleydemon
Artistically excellent, technically flawed.
It is difficult to write a balanced comment of this miniseries because it contains some of the best and the worst of film-making. Perhaps my review should be called "the good, the bad and the ugly". And bear in mind that I am not American and know little of FDR's early days.
First the good. The acting is truly excellent. Edward Herrmann is totally convincing as a younger FDR and Jane Alexander does a remarkable job of speaking through those prosthetic teeth. The locations, the sets and the costumes are all convincing and give an interesting glimpse of a time and place that is rarely covered in movies. The leisurely pace, a luxury allowed only to miniseries, allows the viewer time to get a feel for the characters and locations.
And then there is the bad. One thing I noticed that I almost never notice in a film was the camera-work. Some of the shots and angles became quite repetitious, to the point where I was consciously waiting for the "zoom-out-through-leaves" shot. This was distracting.
Another thing on the bad list was, overall, the script. The title is misleading in the sense that this is a movie about Eleanor, not necessarily Franklin. It covers her early life in detail but skips his entirely. Somewhere between the wedding and breakfast he enters politics, gets elected and becomes Assistant Secretary of the Navy and yet this is mentioned only in passing. We really learn nothing of his political views or motives, nor do we learn much about the man who overcame a crippling disability to become the most successful of all US presidents.
And now the ugly. In a word, make-up. The age make-up was so appallingly bad that I was staring in fascinated horror at the slabs of stuff on their faces, waiting for huge chunks to fall off. Indeed, when Eleanor was asleep on the train she had four eyelids. I tried to ignore it but it was too distracting.
Overall, "Eleanor and Franklin" is very interesting and certainly worth watching, particularly for an insight into the life of the First Lady. But if you were hoping to learn more about Franklin, by all means watch this miniseries but be warned that it is merely a glimpse.