The assassination of JFK – and the requisite conspiracy theories surrounding it – have been a popular mining ground for the film industry for decades now, so, with the fiftieth anniversary of the event now upon us it’s almost a given to expect something that covers it again. And “covers it” may just be the most apt term imaginable.
Boasting the sort of cast usually reserved for big-money monologue-driven Oscar fodder, Parkland (so named for the hospital to which JFK was taken) spends nearly the entirety of its ninety-three minute runtime simply recapping the events that took place, both during the assassination itself and in the three days that followed. Adding nothing new to the story whatsoever, it’s literally just that: a bland – seemingly matter-of-fact – recap of events. Worse still, none of the cast seem to be particularly aware that it is exactly that; which is doubly sad considering the wealth of talent on display – Giamatti, Thornton and, bizarrely, Smallville’s Tom Welling each get their moment to shine. It’s to the cast’s utter detriment however that not a single solitary character is in any way fully developed or realised, making the film’s obvious shortcomings even more glaringly obvious.
Subplot upon subplot is laid out before us; which, for a ninety-three minute film is baffling to say the least. Adding insult to injury, not one subplot (bar possibly the office-based antics of the FBI) bear any real connection to the narrative or have any semblance of a point. Director Landesman’s script seems to simply follow anyone who just happened to be around in Dallas that day willy-nilly, cutting back to the lives of Parkland’s doctors and nurses, for instance, for no real reason that bears consideration. It seems callous to have to point out that a solid half of the film is spent on scenes of hugging and crying; which we get, it was a tragedy, but is it really something that commands so much screen time?
Landesman’s directorial style doesn’t help proceedings either, forcing over-stylisation on a somber affair – a shot of a man simply sitting on a bench, for instance, is shot with such an overuse of shaky-cam that even Paul Greengrass would feel queasy. Add to the mix a comically pantomime performance from Jacki Weaver as the elder Mrs. Oswald and what you’re left with is a Kennedy drama that feels less like Emilio Estevez’s superb Bobby and more like a Dallas 1963 edition of Crimewatch.
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Billy Bob Thornton, Paul Giamatti, Zac Efron