FILM REVIEW: KILLING KENNEDY
History comes alive before our very eyes as the documented events of November 22, 1963 unfold. But what distinguishes this telling of the story from previous incarnations is a deliberate and sincere
attempt from filmmakers to provide both balance and context for the events leading up to the assassination.
As we watch the Kennedy Administration grapple with foreign policy debacles like the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis, we also see Lee Harvey Oswald’s fledgling one-man assault against what he perceives as the United States’ persecution of the people of Cuba.
Kennedy is beloved and surrounded by supporters, while Oswald is depicted as a fanatical egomaniac – isolated and ostracized.
The iconic Jacqueline Kennedy is paralleled beautifully in a dynamic performance by Michelle Trachtenberg as would-be assassin’s Russian wife Marina. Trachtenberg, whose dialogue is nearly
entirely in Russian, conveys a tenderness, vulnerability and commitment to Oswald – a man with no home and no country – that is both heartwarming and heartbreaking.
As John F. Kennedy, Rob Lowe couples the charisma that was pure JFK with a gentle humility and endearing thoughtfulness rarely seen in Kennedy biopics. We meet Kennedy on the Presidential campaign trail. As he reflects on his family’s hopes and expectations that his older brother, Joseph, Jr would one day be President, he softly confides to his Aide that “This was supposed to be Joe.” Without missing a beat, his Aids confidently reassures him by saying ”It was supposed to be you.”
Throughout the film, complex themes of nationalism, patriotism are neatly contrasted with intimate exchanges between husband wife. In, perhaps, one of the film’s most poignant and telling moments, the filmmakers cut away from the grand, public Kennedy state funeral to Oswald’s nearly unattended grave side ceremony where, in the absence of pallbearers, law enforcement agents must fill in to carry Oswald’s casket to its final resting place.
Shot over just 18 days in Virginia, “Killing Kennedy” weaves a neat tapestry of archived footage and intense, character-driven scenes to illustrate the complex emotions and seemingly unstoppable convergence of Kennedy and Oswald that would ultimately become one of the most devastation and controversial events in American history.
The film’s star, Rob Lowe introduced, introduced ”Killing Kennedy” to a captive audience at the star-studded LA premiere by lauding not only his fellow cast mates, but the producers and National Geographic Channel team for breaking new programming ground.
The premiere setting resurrected some of the Kennedy mystique with event design mimicking a campaign victory party – complete with Kennedy-Johnson campaign buttons on every table.
Still photos and streaming set footage from the making of the film – coupled with mannequins donning the JFK’s suit and Mrs. Kennedy’s pink Chanel suit from that fateful day – further brought the film and history to life.
“Killing Kennedy” offers an opportunity to mourn the loss of the man, to grieve the loss of this nation’s innocence and to celebrate the brief shining moment that history will forever remember as Camelot.