Thursday, November 7, 2013

Movie Reviews: Parkland (2013)

Peter Landesman’s take on one of the most pivotal moments of the 20th century, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, makes for a decent movie, but one that in the end seems to lack perspective and a point.

Landesman pulls together a terrific ensemble cast, including Zac Efron, Paul Giamatti, Billy Bob Thornton, Jacki Weaver, and Marcia Gay Harden, among many others. All of them give perfectly fine performances, but none of them are given much of a chance to do much with what they’re given, and their characterizations of real, historical people lack dimension. As Abraham Zapruder, who happened to capture the assassination on film, Paul Giamatti has a few shining moments, but they’re limited.

Though the film is named after the Parkland Hospital where both Kennedy (Brett Stimely) and Lee Harvey Oswald (Jeremy Strong) are taken after they're each shot, none of the staff there – Zac Efron as the internist who first operates on the President, Colin Hanks as the surgeon, and Marcia Gay Harden as the head nurse – are given much of an opportunity to flesh out their roles, nor does the hospital itself get as much screen time as one might expect.

One would expect Kat Steffens as Jacqueline Kennedy to be the emotional heart of the story, but she doesn’t do much more than weep throughout the film. It is actually James Badge Dale as Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother Robert who stands apart, conveying nuanced emotion with his stoicism.

It’s a refreshing idea to show the Kennedy assassination through the eyes of everyday people who were unexpectedly thrust into the center of a national tragedy – but one already done a bit more deftly in 2006 with Bobby, the story of JFK’s brother Robert Kennedy’s assassination in 1968.

In the end, even a terrific ensemble needs something to work with, and the best actors in the world can’t elevate a muddled script into an awards-caliber movie. This might make my list for Best Historical Film of 2013, but I’ll have to check the competition. It should have made my list for Best Ensemble, but it probably won’t. It’s not a bad film, but it should have been much, much better.

Rating: 3 stars

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