“Impeachment: American Crime Story” Review: FX Anthology Written From Monica Lewinsky’s Perspective May Have You Rethink the Scandal

Sarah Paulson and Beanie Feldstein in “Impeachment: American Crime Story.” Photo Courtesy: Tina Thorpe/FX

Rating: 9/10

If you haven’t watched activist Monica Lewinsky’s 2015 TED Talk on cyberbullying and the price of shame, I recommend you check it out. She talks about how in 1998 and at the age of 24 she was “swept up into the eye of a political, legal and media maelstrom.” It sure gives you a whole different perspective on the so-called Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. With that speech and a 2014 Vanity Fair essay Lewinsky was able to tell her story — and the circumstances that changed her life and made her into an instantly recognizable face and name — in her own terms for the first time.

And that’s exactly what Impeachment: American Crime Story does as well. It gives voice to Lewinsky, who’s one of the producers of the show. “To have been silenced and really culturally banished for 20 years, there was no way we could make this show and not give her a voice. It would have felt utterly wrong,” veteran executive producer Nina Jacobson explained in a recent virtual panel in front of the Television Critics Association (TCA) about Lewinsky’s involvement in Impeachment.

The new 10-episode installment of the Ryan Murphy anthology franchise American Crime Story (ACS) premieres on FX on Tuesday, September 7 at 10 p.m. ET, and focuses on Bill Clinton’s impeachment as told from the perspective of not only Lewinsky but also the other women caught up in it. Seven episodes were available for review.

Beanie Feldstein (Booksmart) plays the wide-eyed Monica, who starts off filled with youthful energy and naiveté. The actress, who met Lewinsky personally, describes herself as her bodyguard. And saw it as part of her job to protect the woman she was playing on screen. “I had the great gift of that when I received the scripts, I knew that every word that I was saying was approved and had been to Monica first,” Feldstein said at the same TCA panel.

Frequent Murphy collaborator Sarah Paulson is Linda Tripp, Monica’s friend from her time working at the Pentagon and the person who betrayed her confidence in the hopes of signing a tell-all book deal. No matter how many iterations of American Horror Story or ACS you’ve seen Paulson in, you won’t be able to recognize her at first in Impeachment. She’s all pantsuits, prosthetic makeup, glasses and ‘90s bangs. She transforms herself in a way — from her speech pattern to the way Linda exasperatedly reacts to everything — that’ll make you forget about the glamorous Paulson. You’ll only be able to see office lady and chunky-heels-wearing Tripp.

“There’s a lot of controversy around actors and fat suits, and I think that controversy is a legitimate one. I think fat phobia is real. I think to pretend otherwise causes further harm,” Paulson said in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times regarding the additional padding she wore to play Tripp. The actress also gained 30 pounds for the role. “I think the thing I think about the most is that I regret not thinking about it more fully. […] Should I have known? Abso-f—ing-lutely. But I do now. And I wouldn’t make the same choice going forward.”