Parkland (2013) – A Review

Parkland 2013 JFK assassination movie starring Paul Giamatti
Paul Giamatti as Abraham Zapruder in Parkland

The assassination of President Kennedy affected the entire nation. It reverberated through the country and the world. The moment when people heard the tragic news would become a universally shared memory that those who experienced it would remember for the rest of their lives.

The assassination would also dramatically touch some individuals that would find themselves inadvertently involved in it and have firsthand accounts in the death of their president. By coincidence, chance and perhaps fate they would become part of the story.

Parkland attempts to offer a different perspective to November 22, 1963 and the days that followed. The movie doesn’t so much focus on the national story that is unfolding, but on a handful of characters that would become participants in the historic event and the trauma, guilt and emotional anguish it would leave on them.

Abraham Zapruder, a dress manufacturer who happened to film the assassination whose film would become the most famous home movie in history. The doctors and nurses at Parkland hospital who would find themselves trying to save President Kennedy’s life and failing, then two days later attempting to save his assassins life. The secret service agents who are anguished they have failed protecting their Commander in Chief. An FBI agent who had been aware of Oswald, but didn’t believe he was a priority to look into further. And the assassin’s brother stunned and confused by what his brother has done.

Parkland 2013 docudrama
The doctors and nurses at Parkland Hospital

There’s a lot of characters the film bounces back and forth between. And generally every one of these stories have compelling aspects to it. However, because the movie is so fragmented and jumps around so often I didn’t think it spent enough time on each of them and delved deep enough to make them as interesting as they could have.

The film is called Parkland and I had thought the film would spend a lot of time with the doctors who found themselves tasked with saving President Kennedy’s life. There is a long operation scene as they try to revive his life, but then we never get to spend any more time with the doctors and nurses to learn what they are thinking and the emotions they are feeling afterwards. We mainly see the actors silently staring as they try to continue their duties. It’s not very enlightening.

The secret service agents are the same way. We follow them though the hospital scenes, boarding Air Force One with Kennedy’s body and that’s it. It’s a very glossed over retelling of the events of that day and the characters simply become one-dimensional participants who we never truly learn anything about.

Yeah, we see they’re shocked and stunned and angry, but we could learn that from a documentary about the Kennedy assassination. It’s strange, Parkland wants to tell this historic story from these different perspectives and through these average peoples eyes, but it seems they didn’t come up with anything for these people to tell us.

Parkland 2013 JFK assassination drama
Robert Oswald, his mother and the secret service

The best parts of the film are the time spent with Zapruder (Paul Giamatti) and Robert Oswald (James Badge Dale). This is mainly because not only are both these characters experiencing some very dramatic situations, but because the film explores their reactions and emotions caused by them.

Zapruder is overwhelmed with guilt at what he witnessed and filmed and simply wants to do what’s right with his historic documentation of the death of the President. Robert Oswald is left trying to understand why his brother would do something like this and is now faced with the realization that he and his family will be shunned by the entire country.

There’s a simple scene of Lee Harvey Oswald’s funeral where there is no pallbearers and Robert is forced to ask the surrounding reporters to help him and his family. I’ve heard that story before, but it’s a sad moment to watch this family have to experience.

The film has a pretty diverse cast – Marcia Gay Harden, Ron Livingston, Billy Bob Thornton, Tom Welling, Colin Hanks, Jackie Earle Haley, Zac Efron, but generally they go through the motions of a TV-movie-ish retelling of the events in Dallas and Parkland doesn’t offer anything new to learn or even has a captivating way to tell it.

There are a few compelling scenes, but it’s not enough to sit through the movie even though it’s a relatively short film. This would probably be for hardcore assassination fans (that’s sort of an odd, creepy statement), but they would be better served watching a well-made documentary about the Kennedy assassination. There are plenty airing right now.


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1 Response

  1. CKulik says:

    I've read similar reactions to PARKLAND, although I will probably still end up watching it. Last night I preferred to indulge in beer by the pint (THE WORLD'S END) and marijuana by the ton (WE'RE THE MILLERS); had the biggest laughs of the year without a doubt. 🙂

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