sat 25/05/2024

Parkland | reviews, news & interviews



Peter Landesman's directorial debut gives us a fresh perspective on the assassination of JFK

Paul Giamatti plays Abraham Zapruder, the man who captured a singularly shocking moment in US history

Dallas' Parkland Memorial Hospital is the place where both JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald died and it serves as the central setting for the most recent film to investigate the assassination of the 35th President.

Former journalist Peter Landesman directs and approaches this much pored-over incident with a fresh perspective by putting the doctor who operated on the President, the man who filmed the footage of the assassination, the brother of Lee Harvey Oswald and the special agent in charge of security under the microscope.

Based on Vincent Bugliosi’s book Four Days in November, shot in just twenty-four days and featuring a stellar cast including Billy Bob Thornton, Paul Giamatti, Marcia Gay Harden and Zac Efron (pictured below far right with Colin Hanks), Landesman does a decent enough job with his debut feature (for which he also penned the screenplay) - it's a film which deals with the immediate fallout from Oswald's astonishing, far-reaching crime. Unfortunately it all feels rather perfunctory and Landesman's storytelling is often flawed and undone by overwrought emotional conjecture. However he relays surprising facts surrounding the assassination which make for interesting viewing and cinematographer Barry Ackroyd delivers a vintage, opaque palette upon which this frantic story of anxiety and shock is well served.

And so we look to the performances for a glimmer of hope in this somewhat tawdry affair with Paul Giamatti bringing his usual level of class to the proceedings as Abraham Zapruder, the man who was innocently filming the motorcade when the president was shot, who goes through a crisis of conscience when asked to sell his footage. Zapruder’s request to leave out the kill shot is presented in maddening juxtaposition to the visuals of flesh and cranium exposed in the hospital's operating theatre. 

James Badge Dale brings much needed sensitivity to the role of Robert Oswald who is an innocent victim of his brother’s crime. You witness his reaction from the initial news of the assassination to the empty funeral of his brother attended only by members of the press, who he then has to beg to be pallbearers. This is perhaps the most effective thread of Parkland as the impact on Oswald’s family members is unimaginable. What happened to his children for instance? Though this narrative strand is slightly marred by a performance from Jacki Weaver as the maniacal Marguerite Oswald which borders on the cartoonish and clashes with the mostly solemn tone. 

With its focus on less obvious, albeit still crucial players Landesman's film represents an admirable, if ultimately unsatisfying bid to quash conspiracy theories and give a voice to those who were caught up in this intense and surreal moment in history.

Overleaf: watch the trailer for Parkland


Paul Giamatti brings his usual level of class to the proceedings


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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