Here’s what I found most impressive about FX’s Impeachment: American Crime Story—though Monica Lewinsky is a producer on the show, even she doesn’t get out of this tale unscathed.
It’s true, Lewinsky fares best among the major characters here. Clive Owen’s Bill Clinton is a smooth-talking Jekyll and Hyde with an Arkansas twang—sensitive and caring when they’re having secret trysts in the White House, angry and ruthless when she challenges him. Annaleigh Ashford’s Paula Jones is an earnestly dimwitted deer in the world’s biggest headlights; caught between conservative activists intent on weaponizing her horrifying story of sexual harassment by Clinton and a callous husband hoping to turn any fame reflected from her into an acting gig for himself.
And there’s Sarah Paulson’s Linda Tripp. Made dowdier by a controversial fat suit and near-impenetrable helmet of blond hair, Paulson manages to evoke both pathos and revulsion playing the frustrated administrative secretary who turned secretly-recorded conversations of Lewinsky venting about her affair with President Clinton over to federal investigators.
Still, Impeachment depicts Lewinsky as almost impossibly naïve and smitten with Clinton as their affair began in 1996; Booksmart star Beanie Feldstein excels at embodying the then-22-year-old’s vacillating moods. One minute, Lewinsky is pining by the phone and pestering Clinton’s secretary when he’s clearly blowing her off. The next moment, she’s plunged into angry hysterics when the president resurfaces to toy with her a bit more before withdrawing again.