A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that in its attempt to convince the audience (and the world) that President Kennedy was not killed by Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone, this film shows disturbing footage of the actual shooting over and over again, sometimes close-up, sometimes in slow-motion, heightening the effects of the bullets. Other scenes show brutal beatings, dead bodies, and a re-creation of the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald. Language throughout is coarse, filled with sexual expletives and racial and homosexual insults. There are party scenes that show licentious gay behavior. A stripper is briefly seen dancing suggestively while nearly nude.
Overly long (especially since I watched the director's cut). Too many F bombs (my guess is about 70 in the director's cut; I don't know about the original cut). Otherwise, great movie. I'm surprised I was allowed to see it--not for kids under 16.
What's the story?
Two monumental questions remain about the death of President John F. Kennedy: Was his assassination the result of a conspiracy involving more than a single gunman positioned in the Texas Book Depository, and if so, who conspired to kill him? Filmmaker Oliver Stone answers the first question with an emphatic "yes" in favor of the conspiracy. For his answer to the "who," Stone turns to the real-life efforts in the late 1960s of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) and his quest to reveal the villains as well as the theory behind the plot.
The movie is filled with Garrison's dizzying assortment of suspects: from angry anti-Castro activists to organized crime figures, hangers-on, political heavyweights, even a cabal of menacing gay power brokers. And to oppose Garrison's crusade, there are the many in office who wanted to shut down the investigation and let the official government explanation (The Warren Report) prevail.
Is it any good?
JFK is a well-made work of suspense, intrigue, and drama, all based on trying to solve one of the greatest mysteries of our time. Oliver Stone has tackled such enormous issues and larger-than-life subjects before. He's adept at managing a huge cast, complicated plotting, and weighty topics. JFK is no exception. He presents his case in a clear and decisive manner. He has enlisted an impressive group of supporting players (Tommy Lee Jones, Sissy Spacek, Kevin Bacon, Gary Oldman, Joe Peschi among many), as well as some of the world's greatest actors in cameo appearances (Walter Matthau, Donald Sutherland, Jack Lemmon). Is the theory plausible? Was Garrison a hero or a hack? Courageous or reckless? Whatever the audience comes away with, it's definitely worth a watch.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about an art form, in this case filmmaking, used as a powerful political tool. Was JFK successful at provoking thought about President Kennedy's assassination? What tools could you use to further verify or invalidate the film's point of view? Have you seen other movies that advocate a particular cause, or present a controversial issue? Other works of art (i.e. music, painting, literature)?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.