‘Parkland’ adds little to JFK assassination story

The only interesting thing about “Parkland” is that it exists. And it exists because of our collective unwillingness to let go of what happened on Nov. 22, 1963, the day a young prince died and a still-unresolved mystery began.

Culled from Vincent Bugliosi’s book “Four Days in November,” the movie presents narrow-gauge vignettes, acted out by supporting players in Dallas during the tragedy.

Supporting players, but not peripheral. The most gripping section of the film unfolds at Parkland Hospital, where an unsuspecting overtime ER crew deals with the arrival of a U.S. president with a severe head wound.

Marcia Gay Harden contributes her granite professionalism as the nurse on duty, although here (as in other episodes) the cast tends toward the TV-guest-star vein, with Zac Efron and Colin Hanks also pulling duty. (Hanks’ dad, Tom, produced the film.)

There’s a very dull storyline about Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother Robert (James Badge Dale), enlivened only by the battiness of Oswald’s mother (Jacki Weaver, in her “Animal Kingdom” monster mode).

The movie takes no position on Oswald’s guilt, or any conspiracy theories surrounding the Kennedy assassination, because it keeps its gaze at ground level.

The director, longtime investigative reporter Peter Landesman, seeks to show things “as they happened,” and forgo commentary. So take that, Oliver Stone.

An entire feature could be made from the story of Abraham Zapruder, whose name became a household word after he clocked the presidential motorcade with his 8 mm. camera. In “Parkland,” Zapruder’s story repeats a single note — anguish — as it tracks the sudden attention he gets from a Secret Service agent (Billy Bob Thornton, a good turn) and a Life magazine representative.

As Zapruder, Paul Giamatti does his expected fine work, but he’s got nowhere to go either. Everybody keeps watching the Zapruder film, and reacting in horror, and not finding an answer.

The “Parkland” audience may feel the same way. The whole movie is like adding more frames in a loop of film that keeps running over and over, as though by sifting through these remnants we’d settle something.

When Woody Allen’s character in “Annie Hall” realized his obsession with the JFK case was just a way of avoiding intimacy with his wife, it was a clever passing joke; now it looks like an accurate diagnosis of the national sickness, our inability to live with the idea that we might never know what happened — or that the likeliest explanation is insufficiently grand to fit such a history-altering event.

“Parkland” is a particularly feeble drop in the bucket.

“Parkland” (2 stars)

A ground-level look at some supporting characters in the drama that unfolded around the assassination of President Kennedy: the ER staff at Parkland hospital; Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother; and the man who filmed the killing, Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti). The movie keeps its focus narrowed, and in so doing adds very little to the ongoing obsession with what really happened in those days.

Rated: PG-13 for violence, language.

Showing: Pacific Place, Sundance, Woodinville, Cascade Mall.

More in Life

Heavy Hollywood headlines: Robert Horton’s movies preview

In the midst of all the sexual-misconduct allegations, the holiday film season offers some relief.

‘Love, Chaos and Dinner’ an Teatro ZinZanni’s original show

The “Parsian cabaret” is a superb circus dinner theater operation in Marymoor Park through April 29.

Denzel Washington’s remarkable performance isn’t helped by plot

The actor is convincing as an awkward, eccentric lawyer, but unconvincing contrivances pile up.

‘The Breadwinner’ animation is strong, but its story is stilted

The Cartoon Saloon film never lets you forget that you’re here to learn an important lesson.

Pianist Kaitlyn Gia Lee, 10, of Mill Creek, will perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major on Nov. 26 with the Everett Philharmonic Orchestra.
Young pianist to perform Mozart with Everett Philharmonic

Kaitlyn Gia Lee, 10, of Mill Creek, will play the piano at the Music for the Imagination concert.

Liz Oyama as Belle, Jimmi Cook as Gaston and John Han as Lefou star in the Edmonds Driftwood Players production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” opening Nov. 24. Magic Photo
In Driftwood’s ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ Belle has girl-power bend

Edmonds Driftwood Players presents Disney’s adaptation of the fair tale Nov. 24 through Dec. 17.

Celebrate Native American Heritage Month with reads, listens

Pay tribute to the contributions of indigenous people to national history and culture.

New York tabs share ‘I’m With Perv’ headlines on Trump

Both are reporting on the president’s backing of accused Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Community dance events in Snohomish County

Dudes and Dolls Square Dance Club: 8 to 10:30 p.m. mainstream (rounds… Continue reading

Most Read