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Parkland is historical, to-the-point and intellectually stimulating. The actors fell into their roles with ease and the film used unique artistic direction to move the story along in a slow but steady timeline.
Parkland tells the story of the three days after President John F. Kennedy was shot. The film touches on the parts of the story that weren't publicized. It discusses the doctors who cared for Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald. It shows another side to Oswald's story by spotlighting his brother, Robert, and mother, Marguerite. It discussed Abraham Zapruder and his camera. The film also highlights the stories within the secret service and the FBI branches within Austin, Texas. This film doesn't touch on any conspiracies either.
While the film begins with the mystery within the assassination and the drama within, the film is driven by the drama within the Oswald family. Robert has to deal with the unraveling of his life because of his brother's action and his mother's seemingly outlandish claims that Lee Harvey was a super spy and hired by the United States government.
The film had no surprises or twists. It was an emotional retelling of exactly what happened. It was grueling to watch the First Lady and secret service men fall apart due to Kennedy's death. As Mrs. Oswald proclaimed that she was unashamed of her son and wanted money for the actions, an anger arose.
The stories were told in such a believable way that it almost seemed as if the viewer was in the room. For the audience that didn't know the details, it taught them something new. It didn't dramatize, all of the emotions seemed to be perfectly in place for the time period. The acting was what made the film great.
Zac Efron proved that he was a good actor. He has had quite a few not-so-good films in the past but this movie showed that he is worth looking out for. His character, Jim Carrico, was the resident doctor who cared for both President Kennedy and Lee Harvey after they were both shot. While Efron didn't have much dialogue and most of his scenes were strictly medical, he was impressive. In his short scenes, Efron became the role of a scared, panicked, confused resident trying to understand the chaos surrounding the few days. While Efron did not look anything like the real Dr. Carrico, it was obvious that he had researched the part and had prepared to take on the challenging role. Without saying a word, the audience could understand just how emotionally exhausted the resident was- and that takes some pretty great acting.
The shining stars of Parkland were James Badge Dale's Robert Oswald and Paul Giamatti's Abraham Zapruder. Dale played the confused brother perfectly. He knew that his brother had killed the president but he was conflicted on how to react to it all. Robert was torn because he knew his brother was guilty and had to still find a way to defend his honor.
Giamatti's Zapruder was the man who filmed the shooting. The character was lost in the world because he was being hounded for his footage by press and the secret service were demanding his every move. The character had to hold strong as he was forced to watch his footage over and over again. The entire film Giamatti found a way to make the man seem brave but terrified and distraught at the same time.
While none of the actors playing Secret Service men had individually memorable performances, the scenes with the Secret Service were the most emotional. The men had no real moments to grieve. They were forced, in the blink of an eye, to change allegiance from President Kennedy to the new President Lyndon Johnson. One of the most emotional questions within the film was, now that Jacqueline Kennedy was no longer first lady, where would she go? She was no longer related to anyone within the executive office or within the government. The secret service men seemed torn on how to treat the new widow. They wanted to care for her but also do their jobs to the best of their abilities.
The story involving the FBI was interesting as well. They had made the mistake of not catching Lee Harvey Oswald before the shooting, even though he was on a threat list and had walked into the office ten days earlier. The story didn't make as big of an impact but it was an important one to know.
While the acting within each of the stories was great, there was one drawback. It seemed like more of a collective amount of scenes rather than a movie pulled together. While they were all explaining the "what happened after" aspect of the JFK story, none of them seemed to connect. There was enough material within each of the stories to make films out of each story. It was as if the audience only got to view the tip of the iceberg in each tale.
The stories within were great and interesting but it began to touch on questions that it was never able to answer. How did the doctors and nurses handle having to care for both the assassin and the president? What did the FBI really mess up on? What was Zapruder outside of a man with a camera and how did he handle the attention? And, really, an entire movie about the distraught secret service men and Jacqueline Kennedy in the days after would be worth watching. And whatever happened to the Oswald family?
Parkland was interesting and entertaining. I left the theater pleased with what I had just seen. Not only did I see a decent movie but I also learned something. It didn't have a happy ending nor was there any romantic mushy details. It told a sad, strong story in an interesting way. While there were drawbacks, the actors pulled off a unique film based on a true story that is retold over and again.