“Parkland” is a film about the John F. Kennedy assassination on that fateful day in Dallas, Texas. Instead of exploring the conspiracy theories that films such as Oliver Stone’s 1991 film “JFK” did, this film concentrates on the people that were there in Dallas and how the shooting affected them and the people that they loved on a day that forever changed America.
The film opens on the morning of the shooting. We follow a number of people around doing their jobs, all not knowing that their day is going to be severely altered. We meet Dr. Charles Carrico (Zac Efron), a young intern who is on a very long shift. FBI agent is working on creating a list of possible crackpots in the Dallas area. Secret Service agent Forrest Sorrels (Billy Bob Thornton) is in charge of the parade route. Bob (James Badge Dale), Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother is working at a supply company. Mr. Zapruder (Paul Giamatti), is excited for the President’s visit, making sure that his employees all take an early lunch so that they can see him as he rides by. Zapruder is shown checking his 8 mm motion picture camera, making sure that it’s ready to capture the visit.
The director/writer of the film, Peter Landesman, does a nice job of not showing us the actual shooting, something that most people have seen a number of times, but we witness the shooting through the eyes of the people that witnessed it in Dealey Plaza. We see the shock on people’s faces as they try to come to terms with what is happening. This is perfectly done by Giamatti, who plays the man who became famous for shooting the only footage of the assassination, as he reacts to the shooting with absolute horror.
It’s an interesting film about a time when people didn’t have instant access to the news and cell phone cameras were non-existent. Landesman lets the characters speak for themselves. The film’s strong point is the excellent acting. Giamatti especially stands out as the man who, because of what he witnessed, becomes a central figure in the investigation. Marcia Gay Harden does a standup job as the head nurse in the emergency room, taking over when a shocked staff realizes that they are working on the President and not an ordinary victim as they first thought. Jacki Weaver, playing Marguerite Oswald, the loony mother of Robert and Lee Harvey, is pitch-perfect in the role. Her character is a woman that would have thrived in the present day, where the media can make a star out of tragedy. Marguerite is the type of person who commands that people pay attention to her, something that Weaver takes and makes it her own.
I found the storyline that centered around Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother, Bob, fascinating. He is just a guy working at a company one day and the next thing he knows, he becomes a hated man for something he had nothing to do with other than being related to the man that killed the President. James Badge Dale does a masterful job playing a man who becomes overwhelmed by the situation, as he tries to find out why his brother committed murder and control his spotlight demanding mother.
This is a film that gives us a fresh look at a subject that has been explored many times, showing us the human side to a day the whole country came to mourn.
My Rating: Bargain Matinee
“Parkland” opens today at Atlanta area theatres.