Roosevelts, The: An Intimate History (Blu-ray Review)29 Aug, 2014 By: Stephanie Prange
$99.99 DVD, $129.99 Blu-ray
Voices of Meryl Streep, Paul Giamatti, Edward Herrmann, Patricia Clarkson, John Lithgow, Adam Arkin, Eli Wallach, Keith Carradine, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Billy Bob Thornton, Josh Lucas, Philip Bosco, Carl Lumbly, Kevin Conway, Carolyn McCormick, Pamela Reed.
Director Ken Burns, in a unique approach to a biographical documentary, weaves together the lives of three important figures in American history: two presidents and a much-admired first lady — Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, who also happened to be related by family. Covering the family story for more than a century, The Roosevelts also touches on many of the defining moments of the American century and many of the policies and programs that shape the country today. These pivotal figures helped create the National Parks, dig the Panama Canal and fashion the New Deal. They also helped guide the country through world conflict and the defeat of Hitler.
In spanning the birth of Theodore in 1858 to Eleanor’s death in 1962, The Roosevelts puts a human face on history, outlining the private struggles of, and influences among, these figures, helping them empathize with their fellow Americans despite being born into great wealth. Top voice talent, including Meryl Streep as Eleanor, Paul Giamatti as Theodore and Edward Herrmann as Franklin, bring to life correspondence and writings.
Extras include deleted scenes, many of which might have added to the overall production if included, but considering the documentary runs roughly 14 hours and spans three lives during a century, that is perhaps to be expected. There is also a making-of documentary among the many special features.
A fascinating history lesson on how personal experiences affect political life, The Roosevelts, which airs on PBS Sept. 14 to 20, is another excellent entry in the Ken Burns library.