Craig's First Take: "Parkland"

Photo Credit: © 2013 - Exclusive Media Group

We’re nearing the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination and still we can’t help but go over the same ground for yet another time. Writer/director Peter Landesman, making his directorial debut, has made “Parkland”, based on Vincent Bugliosi’s novel “Four Days in November”, into a multi-character look at November 22, 1963 and the days following and what that adds up to is basically this- nothing. Pointless, lifeless, and reiterating things we already knew before, it refuses to give us a reason for its existence.

Landesman’s camera is all over the place. The hospital room where Dr. Carrico (Zac Efron) and his nurse (Marcia Gay Harden) attend to the president, Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti) becomes a reluctant celebrity after filming the assassination, the secret service (led by Billy Bob Thornton) try to control the moving of the presidents body from the car to the hospital to the coffin, ect, the FBI (led by Ron Livingston’s Agent Hosty) realize they had Oswald in their grasp weeks ago, Oswald’s brother (James Badge Dale) learns of his brothers crime and must contend with the future.

“Parkland” feels like one of those re-enactments you see on “Unsolved Mysteries” or something of that nature, and I don’t think the reason for that is just that there is so much going on with only a short time to tell the story. Most of the actors play their roles with empty theatrics, all the crying, shouting, Zac Efron’s doctor hilariously continuing to pound on the Presidents chest after he flat lines. These characters are developed only so much as having their names and job title appear on the screen when they are first introduced, otherwise most of them are just going through the motions.

Most! Two manage to stand out. Giamatti is great as Zapruder, a man traumatized and disturbed not just by the loss of a great man but also by the fact he’ll be continually remembered for this horrible piece of tape. And James Badge Dale plays a character I don’t think many people know about, I certainly didn’t. But Robert Oswald’s story alone is pretty interesting, trying to stay sane amidst dealing with his murderer brother (Jeremy Strong) and delusional mother (an entertaining Jackie Weaver).

But I go back to the point that “Parkland” fails to cover a lot in a short time, fails to get legit performances from many of its actors, fails to find intriguing points in rehashing all this again. It quickly moves from one scene to the next, finding drama is not its strong suit. For a movie that has this cast, dealing with this big a topic, “Parkland” just comes off spectacularly like, well, nothing.