Parkland (tbc)

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The ViewDunedin Review

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Review byMatthew Turner21/11/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 93 mins

Engaging, well made drama that adds a number of intriguing, never-before-seen perspectives to the JFK assassination, though the general approach frequently means that the characters feel under-developed.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by former journalist Peter Landesman (adapting Vincent Bugliosi's best-seller Four Days in November), Parkland explores JFK's assassination on 22nd November 1963 and its immediate aftermath from a variety of different viewpoints. These include: the two resident doctors at Parkland Hospital in Dallas (Zac Efron, Colin Hanks), where the President and later Lee Harvey Oswald were taken after they were shot; local FBI man James Hosty (Ron Livingston), who's horrified when he realises he already had a previous lead on Oswald; businessman Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti), whose home movie footage becomes a vital piece of evidence; and secret service agent Forrest Sorrels (Billy Bob Thornton), the man in charge of the President's security arrangements.

The film also examines the impact of events on Oswald's family members, namely his brother office clerk Robert (James Badge Dale), who's both shocked and appalled by Lee's actions, and his delusional, Louisiana-born mother Marguerite (Jacki Weaver), who, somewhat perversely, spies an opportunity to seize the limelight.

The Good
The performances are excellent, particularly Paul Giamatti, who's convincingly shell-shocked as a likeable family man who unexpectedly becomes part of a horrific national tragedy, a point brought home rather brilliantly when the secret service force him to get the film developed immediately and the home movie images before the assassination are of his children running around in the garden. Other stand-outs include James Badge Dale, Zac Efron, and Marcia Gay Harden as the no-nonsense head nurse at Parkland; though Jacki Weaver is a little over the top and caricatured as Marguerite and her scenes grate a little by comparison.

With the main focus of the film taking place, as the title implies, inside the hospital, Landesman brilliantly captures the sense of chaos and confusion in the emergency room, aided by superlative photography by Paul Greengrass' regular cinematographer Barry Ackroyd and skilful editing by Markus Czyzewski and Leo Trombetta. Landesman also displays a strong eye for detail, both in the production design and in the accumulation of borderline absurd incidents, most notably in the intercut sequences involving JFK's coffin and Lee Harvey Oswald's funeral.

The Bad
The documentary-like feel to the film pays off with two significant dividends: firstly, the script commendably refuses to succumb to sentimentalisation and hero-worship, and secondly, it doesn't allow room for conspiracy theories (although your eyebrows still raise when, for example, the secret service refuse to allow the hospital to perform an autopsy). However, it also backfires slightly because you don't spend enough time with any of the characters so they feel frustratingly under-developed and it's difficult to connect with them on an emotional level.

Worth seeing?
Parkland is a well made drama with strong performances and a powerful sense of time and place, though it's occasionally let down by under-developed characterisation. Worth seeing, nonetheless.

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Content updated: 22/04/2019 16:55

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