"I wish it had never happened." How easily we trot-out those words, in a courtroom atmosphere of logic and reason.
It's clear from this 90-minute interview that Monica Lewinsky's mind was a maelstrom of confusion when she caught the eye of the most powerful man on earth, and not much has changed since. It is doubtful even now that she has recovered her bearings, and has got any idea of who she is or what she is. But 'Monica in Black and White' may start to give us a clue.
If the 'black and white' pun leads you to expect a matter-of-fact documentary, shorn of passion and prejudice, then you will be disappointed. But the unusual monochrome treatment is a success, eliminating much distraction, and incidentally bringing out the best in her looks. Like certain actresses (Vivien Leigh, Julie Christie), she simply photographs better in black and white, whereas colour always manages to give her an unreal look, like some computerised doll.
But the one who really looks unreal is Linda Tripp, and we can understand Monica's screech of outrage when she realised that her intimate chats with Linda were being recorded and beamed into half-a-billion sitting-rooms. At one point, she shows a gleam of insight into Tripp: "You have no self-esteem." Truly, Linda seems to live in some dark, cheerless zone.
Is Monica any better placed? Her fury at Clinton's memoirs had made her sound self-important. (But when you knock the Pope's visit into second place on the TV news, you get that way.) Here she tries to avoid victim talk - wisely too, after someone asked her whether she'd ever considered Hillary Clinton's feelings, and she blurted "I didn't expect her to find out." At times, she breaks down under pressure, but this was, after all, the first public question-and-answer grilling she had ever let herself in for. And she does inject a little humour into the proceedings ("I'm wired - just so you all know that."). When one self-righteous questioner declares his disgust at the whole issue, she is quick to fire back "Why did you come here?", to general applause.
A martyr she is not. Any idea that her relationship with Clinton might have developed into something bigger is as silly as Marilyn Monroe's belief that Kennedy was about to divorce Jackie for her. In any case, Monica was still carrying on the affair with her college drama-coach all along.
Still, it's hard not to wish her well, after all she's gone through, including legal bills that threatened to bankrupt her. Perhaps the experience has given her the resilience to start again, somewhere a nice long way from the Oval Office.
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