Ironically, the New York Times review of the film Parkland, based on Vincent Bugliosi’s Four Days in November and its errors and assumptions, chides the film for not presenting any new theories. Of course it does present the unspoken theory that Oswald alone killed Kennedy with no conspiracy involved and it portrays the FBI as having missed the opportunity to see it coming since they knew of Oswald’s activities and interviewed him. The New York Times, along with the mainstream press, scorned Oliver Stone’s much more accurate film JFK years ago because it presented a plausible conspiracy theory from the top of the government and the coverup that followed. The New York Times has long been hostile to critics of the Warren Commission and it reprinted the Warren Report in the newspaper, to lavish praise for leaving “no stone unturned” at the time, before the evidence of the 26 volumes could have been reviewed for comparison. This film was another attempt, hopefully a last gasp, to buttress public support for the official version of events, but it falls short even at the box office. 85% of the American public according to a recent History Channel poll reject the Commission findings and support a conspiracy as responsible for the assassination. Public distrust of the government started not after Vietnam of Watergate but in 1964 with the release of the Warren Report. It is time to open all the files, reopen the cold case of this homicide in Dallas and seek justice and the truth at long last.
Dallas, 1963, Redux
‘Parkland’ Recreates the Kennedy Assassination
By STEPHEN HOLDEN
New York Times
Published: October 3, 2013
“Parkland,” Peter Landesman’s taut but unsatisfying docudrama about the Kennedy assassination, is mercifully short. For the events depicted, no matter how familiar, still hurt. Watching the movie is like enduring dental surgery without anesthesia. You clench your fists, suck in your breath and remind yourself that the pain will end. And when it does, sooner than expected, you sigh with relief.
Because the film, which affects the style of “United 93,” offers no new insights, theories or important information, you’re left wondering why it was made. I have no doubt that Mr. Landesman, a journalist and novelist who adapted the story from Vincent Bugliosi’s 2008 book, “Four Days in November,” had a high-minded rationale. The theory seems to be that by keeping most of the major turns of events off-camera and concentrating on the responses of secondary players, including doctors, nurses and federal and state officials at the scene, a story we think we know will be refreshed.
“Parkland,” named for the Dallas hospital where President Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald were rushed, is a considerable technical feat in which original television footage and dramatic re-creations mesh into a fairly seamless visual narrative. Except for the eloquent television commentaries by Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley, which make the squawking of most contemporary bloviators sound trite and overblown, many of the words spoken are in-the-moment reactions of everyday people under stress.
The film is especially good at evoking the chaos, panic and sickening bloodshed around Kennedy’s shooting. Zac Efron, as the doctor who desperately tries to revive the president long after he is gone, and Marcia Gay Harden, as the head nurse, give intense portraits of stunned professionals stretched to their limits.
In one of the tensest moments, Lyndon B. Johnson (Sean McGraw), sheltered by Secret Service agents, is frantically whisked to Air Force One to return to Washington in case of a coup. Aboard that aircraft, a space is carved out to make room for Kennedy’s coffin so that it isn’t treated as ordinary cargo.
Insofar as the film has a focus, it is on Oswald’s family, particularly his levelheaded brother Robert (James Badge Dale) and his kooky mother, Marguerite, whom Jacki Weaver plays as a raving megalomaniac basking in her son’s notoriety.
“I shall never be ordinary again!” she proclaims, and insists that her son be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Ms. Weaver’s campy histrionics steal the movie, but upset its already precarious balance.
A secondary thread follows Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti), the amateur photographer who shot the famous eight-millimeter footage of the motorcade. As the news media descend on him, the editor of Life magazine wins an interview with him.
Far too often, the illusion of authenticity is shattered by ham-fisted dialogue in which every note of grandiosity rings an alarm. As Jacqueline Kennedy (Kat Steffens) lingers beside her husband’s body, she is solemnly told, “It’s time to say goodbye.” When Forrest Sorrels (Billy Bob Thornton), a Secret Service agent, muses, “This was not supposed to happen,” “Parkland” collapses under it own pretensions.
In the end, there is no escaping that as the 50th anniversary of the assassination looms, revisiting the tragedy is a ripe business opportunity. The Kennedy industry grinds on, with no end in sight.
“Parkland” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned) for bloody sequences of emergency room trauma procedures, some violent images, language and smoking.