Parkland is an odd but interesting little movie that chronicles the sideline events surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November of 1963. Its interest in the periphery of the Big Story is what makes it unusual and, at times, unsettling, but the filmmakers believe that we already know the obvious. What we don’t know is what it was like to be in the emergency room at Parkland Hospital in the early afternoon of November 22, or how a well-meaning garment manufacturer named Abraham Zapruder was affected by the home-movie footage he shot at Dealey Plaza that day. Journalist turned writer-director Peter Landesman shines a light in the corners of one of the past century’s most stunning events; whether you care to see what is revealed is up to you. The material is drawn from Vincent Bugliosi’s book Four Days in November: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
As someone who clearly remembers that afternoon and the days that followed (I was 12 years old at the time) I was drawn to all of this detail: the chaos and confusion, the finger-pointing at the local FBI office, squabbling over jurisdiction by various law enforcement agencies, and the uncertainty over how to deal with mundane necessities like securing a coffin and boarding it on Air Force One.
The costuming, makeup, and production design are impeccable, and remind us how severe and formal ordinary people looked some fifty years ago. And the film offers juicy roles to a number of talented actors including Paul Giamatti, Marcia Gay Harden, Jeremy Strong, Billy Bob Thornton, Ron Livingston, James Badge Dale, Colin Hanks, Jacki Weaver, and Zac Efron.
To some viewers remaining on the fringes, without ever tackling the heart of the matter, may be off-putting, but I found Parkland consistently intriguing, if relentlessly downbeat.