Movie Review: ‘Parkland’
Directed by: Peter Landesman
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Bill Bob Thonrton, and Zac Efron
Plot: A recounting of events after the assassination of President Kennedy
On November 22, 2013, it marked 50 years since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. It was a day that held the United States paralyzed, emotionally wrecked, and spawned a million conspiracies that are still debated today. This movie chronicles the chaotic events that followed: the hospital staff working furiously to save the President’s life, the Secret Service reeling after their failure, the locals losing their minds to fear, and the grieving of Lee Harvey Oswald’s family.
The movie starts off really strong. Their is a few foundation scenes putting all the pieces in the right places specifically Paul Giamatti as Abraham Zapruder, the man responsible for the now infamous movie of Kennedy’s death, but it becomes truly exciting when the hospital doors are thrown open and Zac Efron is forced to try and save the President’s life. I was actually surprised how moved I was by these scenes. It was equal parts thrilling and depressing. It was shot like a Paul Greengrass movie with an embedded camera and a docudrama style. You were getting glimpses of the scene but never the full picture. You never even get a good glimpse at the President. People come in and out of the story here like VP Johnson, Jackie Kennedy, and the President’s personal physician all of whom are driven to tears by the events.
Once this is over, the movie struggles to find meaning. It is nothing more than a collection of vignettes checking in on those close to the events and their emotional journey. It’s a star studded cast. The aforementioned Giamatti is joined by Billy Bob Thornton as a senior Secret Service agent, Smallville‘s Tom Welling and The League‘s Mark Duplass as Secret Service agents, and Marica Gay Harden and Colin Hanks rounding out more of the hospital staff. Emotions are running high, but some of it feels a bit forced. It felt more like the air was being let out of the movie rather than the tension revving up.
The story of the Oswalds is probably the most interesting of the bunch. Jeremy Strong proves memorable in his very brief scene as Lee Harvey nailing his creepy passive aggressive attitude. He is scary in that one moment. Jacki Weaver makes a fairly hysterical appearance as mama Oswald constantly claiming her son’s innocence. She may have been the reason why there ever was a conspiracy theory. James Badge Dale steals the show from everyone as Lee’s brother, Robert. He had nothing to do with the act, but he takes all the responsibility. All eyes are on him after the arrest. Eyes of hatred and fear as if he was in on it. In a particularly depressing scene, no one but paparazzi shows up to Lee Harvey’s funeral forcing Robert to ask the camera men for help as pallbearers.
Parkland is very reminiscent of Bobby, Emilio Estevez’s directorial debut chronicling the moments leading up to the death of JFK’s brother, Robert. In Bobby, Eztevez was free to create the characters and story he needed to define that particular moment in time foreshadowing the tragedy. Parkland, on the other hand, shows all of its cards way too soon and chooses to recreate the actual events. The death of JFK does not loom over the story like RFK’s does, it eclipses it, unfortunately.