Competent though somewhat pointless ensemble drama set around JFK's assassination
This November, it will be the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F Kennedy. And for Americans, at least, the fascination surrounding JFK’s murder on that fateful day in Dallas appears not to have waned. Of course Oliver Stone’s 1991 film JFK armed the conspiracy-theorists among us, with stories about grassy knolls, 'triangulated crossfire' and CIA involvement.
Avoiding that route, former journalist Peter Landesman makes his directorial debut with Parkland, an ensemble drama set in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. The title refers to Parkland General Hospital, where some of the action is set, with Zac Efron’s doctor and Marcia Gay Harden’s nurse amongst the medics who bear witness to the moment Kennedy finally dies.
As the day’s chaos unfolds, Landesman widens his focus – from local FBI agents to the Secret Service, led by Billy Bob Thornton’s ball-buster, who requisitions the grainy footage of the incident, filmed by local clothier Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti). Most intriguingly, a light is shone on assassin Lee Harvey Oswald’s family – hardworking brother Robert (James Badge Dale) and loopy mother Marguerite (Jacki Weaver).
It’s competently assembled, and certainly engaging, but it’s hard to see what the point of Parkland is. Whilst recreating some well-known events – such as the hospital scuffle over JFK’s coffin – it doesn’t add a great deal to the history books. At times, it almost feels like the patriotic, flag-waving riposte to Stone’s controversy-laden movie, albeit arriving 22 years too late.
That said, there are some fine performances to enjoy amongst a cast that also includes Colin Hanks, Jackie Earle Haley and Mark Duplass. Giamatti is outstanding as Zapruder, an ordinary man who, quite by chance, captured the some of the most studied Super 8 footage in history. Weaver and Badge Dale are also wonderful – almost making you wish Parkland was re-titled The Oswalds.
General release from Fri 8 Nov.