My thoughts on JFK can be summed up in one word: ugh. Actually, is ugh a word? It’s more of a sound really… See, I’m already attempting to talk about anything other than this movie.
I am able to set aside my personal feelings regarding the Kennedy Assassination while watching this movie (I’m more in the Reclaiming History camp), but it is impossible to set aside my feelings about Oliver Stone as filmmaker. This film is tedious and condescending, mostly because Stone seems to think his audience is stupid. As a result, he spends over three hours repeatedly beating the viewer over the head with the same information. It’s insulting, and I could never really get into the film because of this.
Another big problem with JFK is that it is incredibly dry and boring. I had hoped this would be a riveting political thriller akin to All the President’s Men, but it’s not. The only real similarity between the two is that both focus on the people investigating the historical events in question rather than the events themselves (For those not familiar, All the President’s Men tells the story of the reporters who broke the Watergate story). Other than that there’s no real comparison. President’s Men tells its story better, in less time, and while treating its audience with respect. JFK is dry from the start, something I was clued in to from the movie’s opening scenes which basically constitute a history lesson (You know, because we’re all too dumb to know what happened in the 50s and 60s).
JFK does manage to assemble a huge all-star cast, who perform well given how dull the movie itself is. That said, no one really stands out. Kevin Costner does, I guess, but more because he’s the star and is in virtually every scene. There are really no memorable scenes for me, with the exception of those parodied by Seinfeld. In fact if it weren’t for that TV show I doubt I’d remember this movie at all.
I studied the JFK assassination in high school, and there was definitely something funny going on at Dealey Plaza on November 22nd 1963. This film reinforces that idea, although it ends up being a little too in your face about the fact that there was obviously a conspiracy and anyone who thinks otherwise is a moron.
After the Warren commission report was released and decreed that JFK was murdered by lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald (Gary Oldman) on that November day, something just didn’t sit right with Louisiana district attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner). He decided to investigate the case himself, particularly Oswald’s connection to a Cuban sympathiser named Clay Shaw (Tommy Lee Jones). Garrison eventually uncovers enough evidence to take Shaw to trial for conspiring to murder the president. The case opened the general public’s eyes and made them wary of the official lines being fed to them by the government.
Oliver Stone has made more than a film here. The JFK assassination was one of the most iconic events of the twentieth century. Anybody that was alive when it happened can tell you where they were and what they were doing when they found President Kennedy had been assassinated. Stone is able to take that event and turn it into an advertisement for JFK conspiracy theories. Now I actually believe that there was some sort of conspiracy, but I did not appreciate having it rammed down my throat as hard as Stone want too in this movie. In saying that, JFK did make a difference. It led to many of the sealed documents being released before they were scheduled to be. Not many motion pictures can say they have been indirectly responsible for the unsealing of confidential documents.
As a film, it is very well made. Costner is a bonafide movie star and has enough charisma to carry this film on his own. He has help though, JFK has one of the largest all-star casts I have seen assembled. On top of Costner, Gary Oldman, and Tommy Lee Jones, JFK also stars Kevin Bacon, Joe Pesci, Ed Anser, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, John Candy and Sissy Spacek. The cast is great, and the acting is awesome because of it.
I obviously cannot mention JFK without bringing up a reference to my favourite television show of all time. Seinfeld famously used the court room scene where Garrison debunks the ‘magic bullet’ theory to show that Kramer may have not been accosted by Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez as he originally thought. The ‘second spitter’ scene is one of Seinfeld’s best and after seeing this movie again, I am reminded how perfect that show is.
JFK is a well-made film that is undone because it tries so hard to shove it’s message into your face.