Posted by: greercn | November 26, 2013

Parkland

If you are over 55 and North American, you know exactly where you were when President Kennedy was assassinated. That day ended the cosy sense of safety privileged children and adults had enjoyed. Yes, we’d had drills in the event of nuclear attack. Yes, we knew that others suffered and we were well off.

For many of us, it was the first time we ever saw adults cry.

This week marked the 50th anniversary and movies, books and theories continue to be produced.

This film takes an offbeat perspective and is based on part of the book “Four Days In November” by Vincent Bugliosi. He co-wrote the script with director Peter Landesman.

“Parkland” is the Dallas, Texas hospital that was thrown into extraordinary circumstances on November 22nd 1963. Zac Efron plays a doctor forced to operate on the dying President. Zac may yet overcome his teen idol past on the strength of his excellent and believable performance here and in last year’s “The Paperboy”.

Marcia Gay Harden, as a nurse, matches his energy and the medical scenes manage that rare feat of feeling very real. Skip seeing “Parkland” if you are squeamish.

Paul Giamatti’s portrayal of Abraham Zapruder, who filmed the events, is truly astonishing. The look on his face as he realises what he has recorded is very deep. His eyebrows crumple and his face curls up.

James Badge Dale plays (probable assassin) Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother Bob. Both he and Jacki Weaver (as his mother) have terrific moments.

The various secret service people are confusing to watch. Billy Bob Thornton and Ron Livingston stand out, but the mass of people rushing about makes it unclear who you are watching, when and why.

It works best as a medical drama set against historic events. The Oswald family and Zapruder’s feelings are brought to life.

Landesman’s direction is a bit too choppy for me as I just settled into recognising one character when a whole bunch of others came in.

James Newton Howard’s music and Kari Perkins’ costumes are great and enhance the sense of time and place.

The Stratford East Picturehouse audience enjoyed it. There may be more here for older viewers than for younger ones although those who adore medical dramas in all their gory details will find much to savour.

I liked many of the ideas and scenes but doubt it will stay in my mind. Still, it’s an utterly refreshing 90 minutes long and never lingers too long in one place. That may make it very suitable for those with short attention spans.

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