In anticipation of an upcoming trip to Dallas, I recently rented Oliver Stone's JFK.
Originally released in 1991, the movie has actually weathered the last decade fairly well.
Were it not for a cast populated with many currently dead people (John Candy,
Walter Matthau) and
people whose careers are currently on life support (Kevin Bacon, Sissy Spacek),
a person could be convinced that JFK is a recent release.
Another dead giveaway of the age of the film is the appearance of Kevin Costner as
an important actor in an important
role. A relic of the early 90s, Costner has been trying to revive his career after the dismal
failures of his two pet ego projects, Waterworld (1995) and
The Postman (1997).
Both Waterworld and The Postman left me with the feeling that they could have been good if
Costner had not had as much control. They are both post-apocolyptic stories (which just
pulls at my heartstrings even though I don't really like Kev all that much), and The
Postman is based on a David Brin book. Depite good premises and some good casting, both movies
drag like a 1970s drama.
Anyway, back to JFK. Kevin Costner plays Jim Garrison, a New Orleans District Attorney
who starts researching the Kennedy assasination in 1966, discovering many connections in his
hometown. It's a three hour movie, but it's very entertaining and not quite as
manipulative as I thought back when I saw it in theaters for the first time. This change of
opinion, however, may be partially do to the recent election in this country and my subsequent
lack of faith in my elected (and not-elected) officials.
The setting is all swampy and worn out New Orleans. Everyone is a little sweaty and droopy-eyed,
women's hair holds up remarkably well. Laurie Metcalf (Jackie on Roseanne)
is excellent as Assistant District Attorney Susie Cox. She has 3 different hairdos, calls
Kevin "Boss" and never has any "woman in a man's world" moments despite being the only woman on
the DA's staff in 1966.
Unfortunately, Garrison is burdened by a super-whiny wife, Sissy Spacek, who only has one
hairdo during the entire movie (and this movie covers about 3 years!) and seems completely overwhelmed
when her husband can't come to Easter dinner. There is also some very bad child acting. Oliver
Stone would have done well to re-write Garrison's personal life and make him a bachelor.
JFK is a star-studded show. Ed Asner and Jack Lemmon show up in small parts,
as do the aforementioned
late Walter Matthau and John Candy. John Candy stands out particularly as a local
society type who
talks in surprisingly convincing 60s-speak:
"Is this off the record Daddy-O? Good. In that case, let me sum it up for you real quick.
If I answer that question you keep asking, if I give you the name of the big enchilada,
you know ... then it's bon voyage Dino. I mean like permanent. I mean like a bullet in my head,
you dig? You're a mouse fighting a gorilla. Kennedy is dead as that crab meat. The government's
still breathing and you wanna line up with a dead man?"
For the first time since seeing
West Side Story, I am actually now convinced that cool people might have once said
There are also some now well-known actors in small roles, such as Wayne Knight (Newman on
Seinfeld) and Vincent D'Onofrio (The Cell). One of the real joys
of watching older movies is seeing now-famous actors in small roles, and JFK is full of that.
All in all, this is a pretty good slice of early 90s filmmaking crossed with a healthy and fun dose
of conspiracy theory. It's coming out on DVD soon, too, so switching tapes won't be necessary. Ah,
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