TIFF 2013: Parkland
Dallas. November 22, 1963. 12:38pm. Wounded President John F. Kennedy is rushed to Parkland Memorial Hospital, where a frantic trauma team struggles in vain to save him. Precisely forty-eight hours later, the same personnel would attend to the President’s mortally wounded assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. Adapting Vincent Bugliosi’s acclaimed non-fiction book Four Days in November, first-time writer-director Peter Landesman gathers a star-studded cast (including Zac Efron, Paul Giamatti, and Academy Award-winners Billy Bob Thornton and Marcia Gay Harden) to deliver an ensemble based procedural drawn from the accounts of the medical staff, investigators, and ordinary citizens who witnessed the world-changing events first-hand.
You will not find anything new or integral to the JFK Assassination in Parkland, this is not that film. Instead it remains content to merely play out and display the actions of the bystanders of that act. The film in many regards just sits there as it does little to draw the audience into the proceedings, other than what the audience brings to it. The film also features a failed story thread involving the secret service agent who originally interview Oswald months before that either needs to be more fleshed out or excised all together as it just sits hanging through most of the film as an afterthought.
The film features some decent performances, Paul Giammati, James Badge Dale and Marcia Gay Harden are all great, and one terribly unconvincing and terribly dull performance from Zac Efron. Sadly Efron is front and center here as one of JFK’s surgeons and in the midst of the other more seasoned performers sticks out like a sore thumb. And it’s that thumb that nearly ruins the whole experience.