Review: Tawdry JFK drama 'Parkland' an exercise in sorely misjudged nostalgia
VENICE - As we near the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination, it's comforting to know that he died surrounded by so many attractive people. Cold comfort, admittedly, if indeed we still require any consolation at all for a moment in history that, however rupturing, has by now been amply processed -- both on screen and elsewhere.
But it's pretty much all I gained from Peter Landesman's vapidly exploitative take on the events of November 22, 1963, as experienced by the sundry agents, doctors, servicemen and civilians who played a tangential but first-hand role in the unhappy day. Like Emilio Estevez's similar but marginally more redeemable "Bobby," it reveals nothing about the tragedy that you didn't already know, bar that which you certainly never needed to know in the first place. "Hey, there's Jackie! I think so, at any rate: looks nothing like her. Anyway, how did the nurse feel about it all?"
Writer-director Peter Landesman -- a practised journalist demonstrating few of his erstwhile profession's best principles in his debut feature -- adapted his fidgety screenplay from Vincent Bugliosi's 700-page investigative tome "Four Days in November." Apart from the name and place captions cluttering the screen in its opening stretches, however, the film doesn't give the impression of being all that thoroughly researched, as various stunned characters trade stock movie dialogue to convey their unsurprising anguish. "This is the first time the Secret Service has lost a president under its watch," barks an officious senior suit, a banal line that accidentally hits at least one human truth: in the immediate fallout of a major figure's passing, it is the first instinct of many to make it all about themselves.
As such, "Parkland" is structured a little like a hypothetical 1963 Twitter timeline, narrowed by the hashtag #JFKRIP: none of the participants have much to say about the man or his absence, but they're appropriately sad about it. Zac Efron's dreamy ER medic Jim Carrico's lip quivers, dreamily, as he realizes the futility of the resuscitators he's dreamily applying to the President's chest, but keeps dreamily pumping away regardless, jaw clenched in dreamy despair. Paul Giamatti's humble civilian Abraham Zapruder frets humbly about the in-demand Super 8 footage of the assassination he's accidentally (but humbly) captured, humbly calling on media vultures to Do The Right Thing. Ron Livingston's stricken FBI agent James Hosty looks stricken as he ponders the striking possibility that he let Lee Harvey Oswald slip through his fingers, and is further stricken as his superiors chastise him for his neglect. Meanwhile, an unrecognizable Jackie Kennedy (Kat Steffens) shows up to shed a few wordless tears in a recognizable pink suit, before beating a hasty retreat from the tacky proceedings.