MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
Rob Lowe as JOHN F. KENNEDY
Will Rothaar as LEE HARVEY OSWALD
Jack Noseworthy as BOBBY KENNEDY
Casey Siemaszko as JACK RUBY
Ginnifer Goodwin as JACQUELINE KENNEDY
Michelle Trachtenberg as MARINA OSWALD
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Nelson McCormick
BY KEVIN CARR
With the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy happening just this past November, it has been a chance for me to revisit this story and Kennedy’s presidency in film. Warner Bros. released a Blu-ray box set of Oliver Stone’s “JFK,” which included additional documentaries and a bonus disc of the film “PT 109,” which chronicled Kennedy’s World War II drama.
Additionally, the new docudrama “Parkland,” about the events that took place at Parkland Hospital in Dallas where both Kennedy and Oswald were sent, hit DVD and Blu-ray.
Now, after a successful run on the National Geographic Channel, the film adaptation of Bill O’Reilly’s book “Killing Kennedy” hit Blu-ray and DVD. It was the third Kennedy assassination film I have seen in as many months.
“Killing Kennedy” tells a sober, non-sensational story of both John F. Kennedy’s life leading up to his assassination as well as that of Lee Harvey Oswald. Rob Lowe plays Kennedy, with a peek behind the popular curtain to a bit of his home life with Jacqueline (Ginnifer Goodwin). However, the greater focus of the film is as a biopic of Lee Harvey Oswald (Will Rothaar) and the events that pushed him to shoot the President.
There are some real quality elements in this film, particularly the portrayal of Kennedy by Rob Lowe and Jack Noseworthy’s performance as his brother Bobby. Ginnifer Goodwin delivers a subtle performance, which is most likely accurate but a little too subdued in historical context to really have any punch behind it.
Will Rothaar does a fine job as Oswald, offering something more than a disturbed head case who history remembers as a monster. In fact, it is the focus on Oswald that gives the movie its meat. We see the many forces in Oswald’s life, along with his detachment from reality, which doesn’t offer sympathy but fits into the historical context.
Still, there are several things holding “Killing Kennedy” back from being nothing more than just another TV movie. O’Reilly states in the behind-the-scene material on the Blu-ray that he purposely steered away from the conspiracy theories and the unanswered questions that swirled around the assassination. On one hand, I can respect that for adherence to known fact, and I have always seen Bill O’Reilly as a media figure who tries to steer clear from historical sensationalism.
However, “Killing Kennedy” might just be a little too sober. At times, it’s almost as unbelievable as the throw-everything-against-the-wall story that Oliver Stone tells in “JFK.” Things are just too perfect, painting the state of Texas as a boiling pot of crazies with guns with a Wild West mentality.
By avoiding conspiracy theories and unanswered questions, the story becomes stale very quickly. From a dramatic standpoint, this makes the movie suffer. From a historical standpoint, it feels a bit dishonest, too. Even watching one or two scenes of Stone’s “JFK” out of context (particularly the scene in which Kevin Coster as Jim Garrison analyzes the poor choice of angles Oswald shoots from in the book depository) leaves me scratching my head as to why there was no explanation in this film.
As far as TV movies go, “Killing Kennedy” is perfectly fine, and it does offer a different (albeit duller) perspective on the whole affair. However, it’s not at the level beyond TV movies that it strives to be.
The Blu-ray comes with UltraViolet streaming capabilities. Bonus features include both the broadcast and the extended feature, a half-hour behind-the-scene making-of featurette, an interview with Bill O’Reilly about making the film, plus a featurette called “The Kennedy Mystique” and a tourism commercial for Virginia, where the film was shot.