Parkland (PG-13)

In 'Parkland,' Marcia Gay Harden, Zac Efron and Aidan Sullivan are part of the medical team that tended to the fatally wounded John F. Kennedy.
In 'Parkland,' Marcia Gay Harden, Zac Efron and Aidan Sullivan are part of the medical team that tended to the fatally wounded John F. Kennedy.

Movie Info

Rating: * * 1/2

Cast: Zac Efron, Marcia Gay Harden, Billy Bob Thornton, Paul Giamatti, James Badge Dale, Ron Livingston, Jacki Weaver, Tom Welling, Colin Hanks, Jeremy Strong, Sean McGraw, Kat Steffens.

Writer-director: Peter Landesman.

Producers: Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Matt Jackson.

An Exclusive Media release. Running time: 93 minutes. Vulgar language, surgical gore, adult themes. In Miami-Dade: Aventura, Sunset Place, Paragon Grove; in Broward: Pompano, Deerfield; in Palm Beach: Parisian, Living Room, Delray.

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy has already fueled so many movies and books and documentaries, there would seem to be little drama left to wring from it. But Parkland finds a way. Writer-director Peter Landesman chooses to focus on the people relegated to supporting characters by history: Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti), the man who famously captured the murder on his Super 8 camera; Robert Oswald (James Badge Dale) who first learns what his brother Lee has done via a radio news report; Secret Service agent Forrest Sorrels (Billy Bob Thornton), whose chief task that day was to make sure Kennedy’s visit to Dallas went off without a hitch; FBI agent James Hosty (Ron Livingston), who had received a threatening letter from Lee Oswald 10 days before the shooting but paid it no mind; and the doctors and nurses (Zac Efron, Marcia Gay Harden, Colin Hanks) at the eponymous hospital who treated the mortally wounded president, and later his killer, to no avail.

Based on the first half of Vincent Bugliosi’s mammoth, scrupulously researched Reclaiming History: The Assassination Of President John F. Kennedy, Parkland relegates the usual focal points such as Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson (Sean McGraw) and Jackie Kennedy (Kat Steffens) to extended cameos: The camera barely shows us Jackie’s face, out of respect and a desire not to exploit. Even Lee Oswald (Jeremy Strong), the nexus of all the conspiracy theories that sprang from the killing, only gets one scene (although it’s a doozy).

Parkland is wildly uneven, although compulsively watchable. The all-star casting is sometimes distracting (Efron’s presence in particular seems like a sop to court a younger audience). The drama is sometimes heavy-handed, such as a needlessly long scene in which distraught secret service agents tear out the seats from the airplane that will carry Kennedy’s coffin back to Washington. And the actors aren’t always attuned to the same wavelength. As the Oswalds’ demanding, self-serving mother, Jacki Weaver goes so far over the top she almost topples the film into camp. And even Oliver Stone would have nixed a shot of Jackie carrying some of her husband’s brain matter into the E.R. in her hands

But for every false step Parkland takes, Landesman offers a corrective. The scenes emphasizing Robert Oswald’s emotional duress put you in the shoes of an innocent man whose brother had suddenly become the most hated person in the country. The tumult inside the FBI office where Lee Oswald’s damning letter was hand-delivered (by the killer himself!) is tense and stressful as an agency that thrives on secrecy tries to prevent the world from learning about its flub. And I had never seen a movie depict the behind-closed-doors negotiations between Zapruder and the editor of Life magazine, the publication that ultimately won the bidding rights to publish his film. Sharply edited and factually accurate, Parkland recounts a dark day in American history with compassion and lament.

Read more Reeling with Rene Rodriguez stories from the Miami Herald

 <span class="cutline_leadin">‘Life Itself’:</span> Gene Siskel, left, and Roger Ebert get into one of their countless arguments during the taping of their TV show.

    Life Itself (R)

    There are scholars who blame Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel for dumbing down film criticism with their thumbs-up, thumbs-down approach, the same way they blame Steven Spielberg and George Lucas for ruining movies with the success of Jaws and Star Wars. But Siskel and Ebert accomplished just the opposite: They popularized criticism and introduced it to the masses via their PBS show in which they spent a lot of time debating (and fighting) over movies before delivering their final, yes-or-no verdict. The first version of their show, which was titled Sneak Previews and aired on PBS in the late 1970s, led me to read Pauline Kael and Film Comment and American Film and the Miami Herald’s late, great Bill Cosford as a kid. Suddenly, my nascent love of movies blew up: Movies weren’t just something you watched for entertainment. Sometimes, there was a lot to find beneath their surface.

Caesar (Andy Serkis) leads a war against mankind in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”

    Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (PG-13)

    Yawn of the Planet of the Apes — excuse me, Dawn — has a big-budget sheen, a few terrific action setpieces and some of the most jaw-dropping CGI effects to date: You will believe these apes are real (although some of them are actors wearing costumes).

Chris Evans (center) and Jamie Bell (left) are about to crack some skulls aboard a speeding bullet train in “Snowpiercer.”

    Snowpiercer (R)

    In the near future, mankind attempts to solve the growing problem of global warming by shooting a missile into space that will lower the planet’s thermostat. Instead, the device plunges Earth into another ice age, killing all life except for the people on a huge bullet train that has been circling the globe for 17 years (don’t ask, just go with it).

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category