Not long after Nat Geo acquired the rights to Bill O’Reilly’s bestseller “Killing Kennedy,” Nat Geo CEO David Lyle and pres Howard Owens found themselves in a meeting with actor Rob Lowe. “I sat staring at Rob, my man crush in full bloom, calculating in my mind just how we were going to get Rob to play this role,” Owens told the audience at Mon night’s L.A. premiere for the small-screen adaptation premiering Sun. “When Rob Lowe agreed to play JFK, he elevated the status of our channel.”
To be sure, Lowe’s participation was a publicity coup for the net, but the real star of “Killing Kennedy” isn’t Lowe at all; it’s a relatively unknown actor named Will Rothhaar, who plays assassin Lee Harvey Oswald with a manic empathy few have replicated. Much of the movie focuses on Oswald’s transformation from a communist sympathizer to a job-hopping drifter to an alleged assassin convinced the FBI and others are out to persecute him for his political views. He craves attention for his pro-communist leanings, fantasizes about the press hanging on his every word and spends most of the movie sneering, save one poignant scene in which Rothhaar’s Oswald baths in the joy of seeing photographers at the Dallas police station and believing he’s finally going to have a global platform. Jack Ruby ended that fantasy minutes later.
While not everyone may agree the movie delves deeply enough into Oswald’s motivations, Killing Kennedy paints a decent picture of an unbalanced and tragically narcissistic young man. But in the end, we feel most sorry for his wife Marina (Michelle Trachenberg), who stands by him longer than most would but ultimately can no longer endure his abuse. It’s hard to deny the psychological similarities between Oswald and so many loner gunmen who make news headlines nearly every week in America. And it’s chilling.