‘The Summer of ’82’: High Stakes Drama for the Masses

The Summer of ’82,” (DNC Productions). Executive producer Dianne Feinstein; Starring Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh; co-starring the Senate Judiciary Committee. Limited release beginning September 27.

Word has it this production had been in the works only since mid-summer, and in late September producers opted to greenlight the project. That was a risky move, but the national audience had little doubt that the star, decked out in authentic Anita Hill blue, was well cast.

“My name is Christine Blasey Ford,” she said. “I am a professor of psychology at Palo Alto University and a research psychologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine. I was an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina and earned my degree in experimental psychology in 1988. I received a master’ degree in 1991 in clinical psychology from Pepperdine University. In 1996, I received a Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of Southern California. I earned a master’s degree in epidemiology from the Stanford University School of Medicine in 2009.”

As David Huddleston said after Gabby Johnson’s speech in “Blazing Saddles,” “Now who can argue with that?” Yet audiences had cause to wonder. The professor wore oversized coke-bottle glasses that gave her a loony cross-eyed look. Close shots revealed a kind of hard Nick Nolte profile and some viewers may have been reminded of Michael Caine’s “Bobbi” character in “Dressed to Kill.”

The professor confidently delivered authentic psycho-medical jargon such as, “the etiology of PTSD is multifactoral.” Yet in much of her testimony the 50-something academic spoke in the quavering voice of a frightened teenager. That befitted the back story, a real bodice ripper.

“I was pushed onto the bed and Brett got on top of me,” the star said. “He began running his hands over my body and grinding his hips into me. I yelled, hoping someone downstairs might hear me, and tried to get away from him, but his weight was heavy. Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was so drunk, and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit under my clothes. I believed he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming. This was what terrified me the most, and has had the most lasting impact on my life. It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me. Both Brett and Mark were drunkenly laughing during the attack.”

The use of “Brett” for co-star Brett Kavanaugh indicated familiarity. The professor maintained her best sotto voce tremolo and delivered her lines in convincing style, as though the attempted rape had just happened. Yet the performance demands considerable suspension of disbelief.

Professor Ford said she had one beer at the party but could not remember where the party took place, when the party took place, how she got there, how she got home, and so forth. Previous scripts pegged the party in the mid-1980s but now it was the summer of 1982.

Professor Ford said she knew who was there, but those she named had filed sworn statements that they had no memory of this party. One statement came from good friend, Leland Keyser, but the professor had an explanation. Leland faced “significant health challenges” and was getting treatment. So if there was any mistake, it was all on Leland, not the star professor.

In fairness, this may have been due to the screenwriters, who had been careful to insert in Ford’s dialogue terms from actual legal language of sexual attack, such as “grinding.” And the lawyered-up star with the Ph.D. from USC, who was “100 percent” certain Brett had committed a violent sex crime, said she did not know the meaning of “exculpatory evidence.” When he faced the camera, Brett took up the thread himself.

The accusation was not only uncorroborated, he said, but refuted by those who had no memory of the event. So what was going on here, Brett said, was a “calculated and orchestrated political hit,” and “a grotesque and coordinated character assassination.” Many in the audience may have recalled the 1991 thriller “High-Tech Lynching,” in which Clarence Thomas goes off on Democrats Biden, Kennedy, Metzenbaum et al. Even so, early audience reaction was mixed.

Executive Producer Dianne Feinstein and her colleague Mazie Hirono believe accusation equals guilt, so how do you argue with that? Vietnam veteran impersonator Senator Richard Blumenthal asked Brett, “do you believe Anita Hill?”

The FBI has investigated Brett Kavanaugh six times, but in a late plot twist one Republican joined Democrats in a call for yet another FBI investigation. That was Jeff Flake, who may be an example of what William Blake called fearful symmetry.

All told, “The Summer of ’82” delivers plenty of emotion and suspense but no dénouement. No date has been announced for the sequel.

Photo Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images

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About Lloyd Billingsley

Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Hollywood Party and other books including Bill of Writes and Barack ‘em Up: A Literary Investigation. His journalism has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Spectator (London) and many other publications. Billingsley serves as a policy fellow with the Independent Institute.