Charles Ferguson’s Timely ‘Watergate’ Doc Is Routine But Vital [NYFF Review]

It’s been a hell of a week. A divided, partisan country ripped at the seams and what was once a split has become an unnavigable chasm. The protracted and ugly Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Brett Kavanaugh turned into a culture war — left vs. right, men vs. women — when a courageous woman came forward with sexual assault allegations against the nominee and instead of a thorough investigation from the FBI, the country was given a contentious set of hearings Thursday. And while it might seem naive or Coastal, it’s hard to imagine that anyone out there didn’t already have an unyielding opinion that was only exacerbated throughout this whole, repugnant process.

From the depths of this collective despair, it’s hard to see the light on the other side — some sort of unifying kinship that allows us to no longer detest (or at least lack respect for) our neighbors, though it is easy to remember less contentious times (both those fueled by war and those that just simply weren’t batshit crazy). It is therefore easy to forget that this level of chaos has consumed our government and our country before: Watergate. The scandal of all American scandals, Watergate truly was the sort of Constitutional crisis that people claim is encroaching today. This impossible-to-miss parallel is a good portion of what gives Charles Ferguson’s new six-part docu-series “Watergate” its urgency. It’s also what is most likely to glue you to your seat for 260 minutes of this thorough and engaging, but generally uninspiring, film.

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