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Very Poor Effort With A Potentially Good Story
on 29 December 2014
One of JFK's paramours was Mary Pinchot Meyer.
She was a sister of the wife of W. Post/Newsweek hack, Ben Bradlee.
And an ex-wife to a senior CIA man, Cord Meyer.
Being a daughter to a well-heeled lawyer, she could toy with being an uptown artist - but was mostly known as a socialite on the Washington and WASP circuit. She was also took the odd LSD trip.
About a year after Dallas she was found dead near a Georgetown canal path and this case remains unsolved.
Because her private diary was taken from her home soon after her death by J.J. Angleton of the CIA - an act witnessed and approved by Ben Bradlee, who happened to call while Angleton was there - it has often been asserted that the CIA had some involvement with her death : the most frequently quoted motive being that embarrassing details about JFK or his administration might have been known to her and the CIA neutralized this by eliminating her.
This film vaguely and very selectively represents this story.
But it warps the tale a bit and also adds a parallel - and leading - story line : the free-living artist has a thirteen year old boy admirer living across the street. This boy is posited as the son of two journalists. (Maybe this looser relation between the artist and a prominent journalist was an expedient by the film makers to avoid legal objection by Bradlee, who was still alive when this film was made.)
Just about everything in the latter story line is implausible : from the mixed-sex & mixed-race catholic DC school he attends where floppy white boys usually beat up bigger, stronger black boys (!); his "catholic" parents - played by vividly Jewish-faced actor, Noah Wyle and a very Jewishly-dressed mother, Perrey Reeves; the unlikely loose rein allowed on him by his parents; and his noughties style interactions with the femme-du-monde artist across the street.
CIA figures watching the champagne Bohemian's house are the usual Gannex-coated, loveless, haemorrhoided, heavy-drinking types that Hollywood usually presents us with. One of these who is friendly to the artist tells her that disgruntled Bay of Pigs personnel - the dialogue suggesting cubano regulars (ridiculous from the resources/ambition standpoint) but the choreography implying CIA seniors - were out to get JFK. We then see our artist heroine striving to warn the Prez of this but being walled out of the West Wing by security and secretarial staff combined.
The closing scene of the film shows the boy - with now more understanding parents beside him - unpacking and assembling the contents of a parcel addressed to him by the murdered artist : a portrait of himself done on a 8 x 4 array of wooden panels.
Instead of bringing us through this implausible puppy-horn plot line towards such a philosophically pretentious anticlimax, the makers of this movie might well have considered the artistic potential of such themes as:
* The frustration of a talented woman's life in pre-women's lib USA;
* The corrosive - even corrupting - effect of pre-existing social and family connections on the integrity of politicians, officials, businesspeople and media;
* The reality of the JFK administration which, although superficially echoing 1960s social values, was instead run by men whose values and mindset had crystallized in the much more black-and-white world of the late '30s and '40s;
* The pathos of wealthy "progressive liberals" whose lofty aspirations for society were but a self-deluding flipside to the actuality of their own career and/or personal failings;
* The contrast between DC power-elite society and its surrounding urban mélange of poverty, racism, crime and systemic inequality.