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FX's "Impeachment" doesn't acquit itself well, despite a humanizing portrayal by Beanie Feldstein

1 5 11
08.09.2021

A fleeting detail in the sixth episode of "Impeachment: American Crime Story" succinctly captures what Monica Lewinsky must have been feeling when she realizes how much trouble she's in: She's sitting in hotel room, surrounded by FBI agents, when one of them, played by Colin Hanks, offers her some water. She accepts the crystal tumbler, placing it on a glass coffee table.

Director Ryan Murphy (aided by director of photography Simon Dennis) shoots this moment from beneath the table, granting the audience the perspective of someone underwater. That means we gaze upward at this shocked, frightened young woman gazing into the cut glass, looking like she's drowning or, if not that, as if she'd like to.

All of this takes but a few seconds to play within the seven hours provided for review, but within that space Beanie Feldstein fills a canvas with her interpretation of Lewinsky's fear. What happens to Feldstein's Monica in that room is a nightmare, part of a 12-hour stretch during which federal agents aggressively intimidated and threatened her to come clean about her relationship with then-president Bill Clinton (Clive Owen).

Today liberals view the Clinton affair as one of the best-known examples of an abuse of power differentials in politics and the workplace. Episode 6 demonstrates this point with clarity. For most of the hour Lewinsky and the friend who betrays her, Linda Tripp (Sarah Paulson) are badgered or ordered around by men. Eventually Monica's mother (Mira Sorvino) arrives to comfort her daughter, but her father and his lawyer, reached in a phone call, are the only people the agents listen to and take seriously.

From that point onward, it is men who shape the story surrounding these women. (Knowing that "Impeachment: American Crime Story" originally was based on workplace masturbator Jeffrey Toobin's book "A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President," which the network optioned back in 2017, adds a note of irony to this aspect of the story.) Male journalists write Lewinsky as an opportunist. Men who knew her in high school and college come forward to offer their opinion that she's a stalker. But........

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