TIFF 2013 - GALA PRESENTATION
Parkland (2013) *1/2
Dir. Peter Landesman
Starring: James Badge Dale, Zac Efron, Marcia Gay Harden, Paul Giamatti, Billy Bob Thornton, Jacki Weaver, Jackie Earle Haley
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Even at age of four I knew what was happening on our murky black and white television with rabbit ears and why my mother was crying. President John F. Kennedy was genuinely larger than life and the impact of his assassination on November 22, 1963 was felt all over the world. Fifty years later, nobody believes the spurious findings of the Warren Commission and there is enough evidence to suggest that the President was murdered by forces much larger than the lone patsy Lee Harvey Oswald. That's why I really don't understand the necessity of a film like Parkland (the title signifying the name of the hospital in Dallas where both JFK and Oswald were unsuccessfully operated upon). Shot in urgent annoying shaky-cam and blended with actual stock and news footage of the time, the film details the preparations leading up to Kennedy's visit to Dallas, his assassination, all the chaos of getting him to the hospital, the desperate unsuccessful attempts to keep him alive, the various law enforcement gymnastics with respect to the FBI, CIA, Dallas Police and the Secret Service, the assessment of the Zapruder 8mm home movie footage, the capture of Oswald, the subsequent shooting of Oswald, the unsuccessful attempt to keep him alive in the hospital and finally, juxtaposing the opulent state funeral of the slain president with the threadbare proceedings afforded to the purported assassin.
Though the reasons for this film's existence is a mystery, the ponderous James Newton Howard musical score which alternates between militaristic solemnity and a kind of bargain basement John Williams bombast, reminds us that the intentions of the filmmaker are very serious - though at face value, one couldn't begin to imagine what those intentions actually were. In fact, one of the most offensive things about this movie is that it's structured to avoid the notions of conspiracy in JFK's murder. If anyone was watching this film without a whole lot of knowledge on the subject (sadly, not as surprising as one would think), they'd be leaving this film convinced that the Warren Commission findings were NOT a load of utter horse shit.
Screenwriter-Director Landesman used Vincent Bugliosi's book "Four Days in November" as the primary source material, but one really has no idea why he chose to re-enact a hodgepodge of all the above, with an all-star cast instead of, perhaps, choosing one or two interesting threads, sticking with them, and maybe creating a sustained narrative with actual characters instead of what amounts to extended cameos. It's actually more than a little bit ludicrous to have former teen heartthrob Zac Ephron trying to act as the bewildered inexperienced resident in the president's operating room with dewy-eyed nurse Marcia Gay Harden relieving a weeping Jackie Kennedy of chunks of the President's skull and brains and to then drag Jackie Earle Haley on screen as a priest to administer the last rites.
Not unlike the George Stevens all-star Jesus biopic The Greatest Story Ever Told, I half expected John Wayne to wander into the Parkland Memorial Hospital in full Roman Centurion garb and stand over JFK's corpse and intone: "Truly this Man was the son of God," before realizing he'd stepped onto the wrong sound stage via some kind of Time Machine or wormhole. Well, if only this film was even a pubic hair as good as the Stevens picture (which was pretty rank to begin with), then maybe one might have been able to ignore the messy inconsequence of Parkland and perhaps embrace the genuinely fine (albeit wasted) performances of Paul Giamatti as Zapruder and James Badge Dale as Oswald's brother. But no, instead of choosing to focus on either one of those characters, we're given a parade of cameos and scenes that are only marginally a cut above those cheesy dramatic recreations inserted into lower-drawer TV "documentaries" for cable.
In fairness to Landesman and his abysmal misfire of a movie, one must give him some credit for allowing the inimitable Jacki Weaver to shred every stitch of the scenery with her ludicrously overwrought performance as Oswald's crazy mother. Weaver is every bit the quintessential crazy Southern belle/harridan that if anyone was planning a remake of gothic white trash classics like God's Little Acre or Baby Doll, or for that matter, one of those Robert Aldrich old lady slugfests like Whatever Happened To Baby Jane, then one look-see at this movie and they'll know Weaver is their go-to gal.
"Parkland" is a Gala Presentation at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF 2013). For tickets, visit the TIFF website HERE. Opening theatrically via Remstar just in time to celebrate JFK's assassination.