Parkland Review

by Steve Pulaski

My knowledge on cinema concerning American president John F. Kennedy is unfortunately low, but there’s potential of Peter Landesman’s Parkland being the first film concerning the death of JFK without trying to allude to a potential cover-up or even a conspiracy theory. For the lack of conformity amongst predecessors (Oliver Stone’s JFK being the most famous example among other documentaries), Parkland deserves credit as a film – which likely started as a daydream – that takes a simple idea and meshes it into something creative and decidedly likable , if, as a whole, often being messy and questionable in terms of thematic significance.

I say it likely started as a daydream because I felt “what if?” vibes on the filmmakers’ behalves, almost as if they sat down and discussed presidents, arrived at JFK, and questioned how chaotic and how numerous lives changed after one bullet ended his life on November 22nd, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. Perhaps the conversation, if it were to have existed, became slanted towards key figures like Jackie Kennedy, Abraham Zapruder, the man who took the most famous home movie in American history, Malcolm Perry, the first physician to examine Kennedy at Parkland Memorial Hospital, and Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother Robert Edward Lee, who people always seem to forget about.

Directed by
Peter Landesman
Zac Efron, Tom Welling, Billy Bob Thornton
Release Date
4 November 2013
Steve’s Grade: C-

Parkland is exactly as I just described; a film that attempts to intertwine the lives of many affected by Oswald’s lone gunshot. This is an audacious move on part of writer-director Landesman, who at least makes a conscious and respectable effort to tie these stories of numerous people together clearly. However, predictable issues arise such as a chaotic, unfocused narrative, little character development, and no clear takeaway points or a theme to reach us at the end. One could say the chaos of the film is an accurate description of November 22nd, but as moviegoers and audiences, it is often implied that a film about a major historical event would shed some light and needed clarity on its subject.

Parkland‘s depiction is likely how it was in terms of fear and uncertainty amongst numerous people who found themselves changed after the assassination of Kennedy. However, there’s little that can be learned from the film other than that November 22nd was a devastating day. Other than a handful of thin, if diverse, perspectives on the death of JFK, there’s little else Parkland provides. Performances by Paul Giamatti as Zapruder, James Badge Dale as Robert Edward Lee Oswald, and even Zac Efron as Jim Carrico are favorable, but the film seems to be content on using them as a showcase rather than believably portrayed characters.