film reel image

film reel image

Sunday, December 17, 2023

JFK 1991 * * * 1/2 Stars


1991's JFK is a historical epic of massive aggregate. I mean there's a lot of movie in this movie, told through the hallucinatory lens of one Oliver Stone. Sure it's over three hours long but there's never a dull moment, just shaky certitude and some probable hearsay. "Back and to the left, back and to the left". Uh-uh.

Distributed by Warner Bros. and hauntingly scored by the GOAT of musical composers (my man John Williams), JFK is not necessarily about John F. Kennedy. I mean it kind of is but it's more so about the investigation into his assassination brought by real life district attorney Jim Garrison (played with straight-faced discipline by Kevin Costner).

JFK, well it's Oliver Stone in his heyday, providing the viewer with staggered editing, tons of scorching flashbacks, and grainy, accumulated archive footage that's anywhere from the late 50s to the end of the "Swinging Sixties". Back thirty-plus years ago, Stone was never about shooting a flick for the present day. He bled nostalgia, providing a sense of time and place that's impeccable and a shadowy set design for the ages. As Ian Anderson once quipped, "oh, we won't give in, let's go living in the past". Indeed.

Remembrance and expansion of conscience images aside, JFK gives Stone the chance to do what he does best, squeeze great performances from actors that have never been solely Oscar types. Hey look there's Kevin Bacon killing it as broken witness Willie O'Keefe. Look there's the late John Candy killing it as well as slobbery attorney Dean Andrews Jr. And oh yeah, Brian Doyle-Murray (Bill Murray's bro) channels a solid Jack Ruby (Kennedy demise enthusiasts totally know who Jack is).

Bottom line: whether you believe Stone's delirium vision of JFK or think it's just pure propaganda, what's on screen is compelling either way because of Oliver's knack for forcefully digging up American tragedies. His balls-out approach and total fearlessness here make him one of my all-time favorite filmmakers. "Let justice be done though the heaven's fall". Groovy man.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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