'Fall to Grace' review: Whitewashing

From left, Cheryl Collins, Jim McGreevey and Shirley

From left, Cheryl Collins, Jim McGreevey and Shirley Reeves in NBC's "Fall to Grace." (Credit: NBC)

THE SHOW "Fall to Grace"

WHEN|WHERE Thursday at 8 p.m. on HBO

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey, who resigned from office in 2004 after coming out and admitting to an affair with a state official, later went to the General Theological Seminary in Manhattan, began a "committed relationship" with financier Mark O'Donnell and now works as a spiritual adviser for Integrity House at Hudson County Correctional Center in Kearney, N.J. This portrait, by Alexandra Pelosi (daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi), follows McGreevey -- who has not been granted priesthood by the Episcopal Church -- around on his ministries.


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MY SAY Alexandra Pelosi is an intelligent, sensitive filmmaker ("Right America: Feeling Wronged -- Some Voices from the Campaign Trail"; "The Trials of Ted Haggard") but her style also tends to be loose, jaunty and blissfully untroubled. In this portrait, she's not only incurious around the former governor, but she refuses to ask any difficult questions. In lieu of unpleasantness, she falls back on her default position of forced chumminess: "You still got it, Governor. You still got it!" But hard questions or real insights here might derail her -- and possibly McGreevey's -- simplistic narrative, of a good man whose singular, defining error of judgment was in hiding his homosexuality from so many for so long. "Coming out was a great gift," he says. "I'm gay? Big ----." But McGreevey didn't resign just because he was gay and married at the time, but because he had appointed his lover, an Israeli citizen, as the state's counterterrorism czar in the wake of 9/11, and when pressed, gave him a $110,000-a- year job as an "adviser." (The man, Golan Cipel, later threatened to sue McGreevey for sexual harassment.) Not a mention of that here, and as a result, Pelosi -- doubtless unintentionally -- has done a disservice to McGreevey, who almost looks like he's hiding from his past rather than confronting it. McGreevey makes a compelling point when he says "no one should be defined by the lowest point of their lives," but shouldn't public officials be defined by their careers? If his had been defined with any clarity here, this portrait would actually be powerful, and his "fall to grace" even moving.

BOTTOM LINE A thorough whitewashing

GRADE D+

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