johnlink ranks KILLING KENNEDY (2013)

A whole bunch of original content was drummed up for the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. One such production was the television film KILLING KENNEDY, based on Bill O’Reilly’s book, which aired on National Geographic. It sounded watchable, and it had been lounging on the DVR for the past several months, so we gave it a run.

US- NONE11000
NGCI - 043617

I watched KILLING KENNEDY (2013) on 3.3.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

KILLING KENNEDY starts in 1960 with the election of President John F Kennedy (Rob Lowe) and the simultaneous development of his future assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald (Will Rothhaar). In 90 minutes we skip along through the Bay of Pigs and witness Kennedy’s wife, Jackie (Ginnifer Goodwin) as she suffers his adultery. Meanwhile we see the building and subsequent failure of Oswald’s relationship with his Russian wife Marina (Michelle Trachtenberg). It all leads to the assassination, the chase, and the vigilante execution of Oswald.

This film doesn’t spend enough time on any one area to be educational. It doesn’t have good enough writing to be informative. The acting is too poor (with a couple of momentary exceptions) to be emotionally effective. The filmmaking is uninspired. The score is monotonous and borrows from every other long-toned droning score to ‘build tension’ and builds to a dissonant crescendo like every televised product has since LOST. This is less a consideration of the anniversary of JFK’s death, and more a cash grab.

Lowe has the accent down but is not given anything to do. Ditto Goodwin until after her husband;s death, she does nail a scene of mourning. Trachtenberg does a nice Russian accent and is, somehow, the most tragic character in the film. Rothhaar is intense, but the script fluctuates between admiring Oswald and condemning him in a disturbing way. It is one thing to tell a layered story about an assassin. Yet KILLING KENNEDY never earns this, instead feeling inconsistent in its feeling about Oswald. It would be dubious to blame author and executive producer Bill O’Reilly for this treatment. Instead, this feels like a movie not good enough to do what it wants to do.

The assassination itself feels both exploitative and underwhelming. The movie, at that point, shouldn’t be cashing in on that moment in history. It has absolutely not earned it. Yet, at the same time, the moment leaves you feeling as though the entire thing is anti-climatic. Perhaps this has to do with an ill-timed commercial break and the terrible editing which jumps the President from facing Oswald in the cross hairs to having him turned away. Whatever the reason, it absolutely does not work.

This telling steers clear of any conspiracy theories, which works for it. On the other hand, Oswald’s assassin, Jack Ruby (Casey Siemaszko), is treated as such an afterthought as to be pointless. We get one line about how he likes the Kennedys, then one line about how he feels bad for Mrs. Kennedy, and then he kills Oswald. The movie just doesn’t care about Ruby at all.

It doesn’t feel particularly good to bash a low budget film which doesn’t have the money to create a production design worth anything. Yet money was clearly spent on cast, on costuming, and on some locations. This isn’t a tiny little production trying to tell a big story. Instead, KILLING KENNEDY feels like a rushed consumer-minded product which doesn’t have the clout to do anything but poorly rehash every other telling of the JFK story.





~ by johnlink00 on March 4, 2014.

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