Starring Zac Efron, Paul Giamatti, and Billy Bob Thornton. Rated PG.
The doctor attending John F. Kennedy after he was fatally shot in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, refused to remove the president’s boxer shorts? Jacqueline Kennedy, still clutching her husband’s brain matter and the base of his skull, literally placed the, er, goods right into the hands of
a trauma nurse?
Parkland really has a thing for the little but evidently true details and the minor players surrounding one of the planet’s more famous murders. (It also has a thing for lurid amounts of the president’s blood getting everywhere, but anyway.) And, pretty quickly, the movie’s earnest, inescapable smallness makes you long for some conspiracy-theory rehashing, or Joe Pesci and that crazy toupee in JFK.
Like Bobby—the RFK assassination movie with a Towering Inferno’s worth of actors—writer-director Peter Landesman’s Parkland is a bizarro world of stars portraying real-life bit players. Zac Efron and Marcia Gay Harden play a doctor and nurse at Dallas’s Parkland Memorial Hospital; Billy Bob Thornton is Secret Service agent Forrest Sorrels; Paul Giamatti is Abraham Zapruder, the guy who even your dog knows caught the assassination on film; and Jacki Weaver plays Marguerite Oswald, mama to Lee Harvey. The actors handle themselves well considering the stealth-melodrama they’re enacting, although Weaver is so bonkers it’s like she’s mainlining the Farrelly brothers.
Watching the frantic efforts to keep the president living (who knew he still had a heartbeat when he arrived at the hospital?), one feels weirdly hopeful—which doesn’t make any sense, but then we’re weirdly hopeful about many things. Once the man is dead, however, one’s interest shifts to not much. Sure, the Zapruder-film activities—including Zapruder’s insistence that Life magazine not publish the “kill shot”—are somewhat engrossing. And there is something moving about all the president’s men perversely wrangling the coffin into the plane’s cabin. Although juxtaposing JFK’s funeral with his alleged killer’s is a tad cheesy, no?
Ultimately, the overwhelming feeling is, sorry, little people, we don’t care quite enough. But we do agree with Sorrels: “What a shitty place to die.”