‘Parkland’: Movie can’t quite capture the day JFK died
A review of “Parkland,” a collage of scenes and events surrounding the assassination of JFK in 1963.
Seattle Times movie critic
‘Parkland,’ with James Badge Dale, Mark Duplass, Zac Efron, Paul Giamatti, Jackie Earle Haley, Colin Hanks, David Harbour, Marcia Gay Harden, Ron Livingston, Billy Bob Thornton, Jacki Weaver. Written and directed by Peter Landesman, based on the book “Four Days in November” by Vincent Bugliosi. 93 minutes. Rated PG-13 for bloody sequences of ER trauma procedures, some violent images and language, and smoking throughout. Several theaters.
Peter Landesman’s “Parkland” is a collection of powerful scenes that somehow add up to something less than powerful. Neatly coinciding with the upcoming 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, it’s a look at the people and places swirling around that event: the doctors and nurses at the emergency room at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital, who frantically fought to save the president (and, two days later, his assassin); the FBI, chagrined to find that the shooter was known to them; the Oswald family, soon facing a funeral no one wanted to attend; and Abraham Zapruder, the immigrant businessman thrilled to be using his new camera to capture the president’s visit, and realizing in horror he had filmed a murder.
Each subplot could well be a movie of their own, and probably should — particularly Paul Giamatti’s troubled Zapruder, walking through a nightmare as he desperately tries to do the right thing.
Scenes quickly scroll by, from various perspectives: the difficulties of getting a coffin on a plane; the struggle over ownership of the president’s corpse (“That is my body,” says the medical examiner, determined to follow protocol); the bloody quiet of the operating room; the advice given to Oswald’s brother to move “far, far away.”
Woven throughout is the real footage of that terrible day, and maybe that’s where “Parkland” goes wrong. No portrayal by actors and filmmakers, however skilled, can stand next to what really happened without seeming to trivialize it. Good actors strive valiantly in this film, but when its brief running time is over, “Parkland” seems like not enough — and, at the same time, too much.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org