John F. Kennedy Jr. was the rare American who spent his entire life in the public eye. But despite constantly being seen in newspapers and on TV since infancy, most people never heard him speak until a speech at the 1988 Democratic National Convention, and even fewer got to know him well. This documentary attempts to give us a better idea of who Kennedy really was, but the subject ultimately disappoints.
Despite a skein of positive anecdotes and gushing observations from a stellar and somewhat bewildering mix of notables on screen – where else can you find Ann Coulter, Mike Tyson, Robert DeNiro and Christiane Amanpour in the same film? – Kennedy emerges as a good-natured but slightly vapid personality. Some bits of his life are mentioned so briefly (most notably, his interest in acting at Brown University) that they raise more questions than answers. And despite endless buzz that he was destined for a political career, his pursuit of publishing via the politics-meets-lifestyle George resulted in a mediocre magazine that only achieved a degree of value due to his aggressive promotional outreach on talk shows and sitcoms.
For the most part, Kennedy did not seem distressed to be in the spotlight – at least until his marriage with publicist Carolyn Bessette, who came to resent the constant attention. Their union was troubled before their deaths in a 1999 airplane crash, and the film is sympathetic to their marital woes. Oddly, the film pays relatively attention to his relationship with sister Caroline and even less to his dealings with stepfather Aristotle Onassis and the wider Kennedy clan.
As for the man himself, Kennedy’s interviews and encounters with the paparazzi revealed a good looking figure that seemed to be strangely lacking in charisma whenever he was required to converse at great length. And that is the greatest disappointment here: the elusive and celebrated young man seemed to be something of a bore.