Venice Film Festival 2013: Parkland - All the detail you could want of JFK killing, but where's the story?

2.00

 

Parkland is the name of the Dallas Hospital to which President John F Kennedy was rushed after he was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22nd 1963. “It’s a shitty place to die,” we hear one character murmur in Peter Landesman’s new ensemble drama, produced by Tom Hanks and set in Dallas at the time of Kennedy’s assassination.

The film is very well filmed in a verite style reminiscent of DA Pennebaker documentaries of the early 60s. There is constant use of handheld camera and lots of sweaty close-ups of panicked FBI agents and medical staff. The performances are full blooded and Landesman includes details that are bound to be fascinating to anyone interested in the circumstances in which JFK died. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean Parkland works as a drama. Landesman offers us a sophisticated and meticulously detailed historical reconstruction that, as storytelling, remains disappointingly inert.

Early in the film, just before the motorcade arrives in Dallas, we are introduced to Abraham Zapruder, getting ready to film the President with his Bell & Howell 8mm camera. As played by Paul Giamatti, he is a sweet natured, Mr Magoo-like man who is utterly traumatised when he ends up recording the famous footage of Kennedy’s death.

Forrest Sorrels, head of the Secret Service in Dallas and played with grim intensity by Billy Bob Thornton, is desperate to get hold of the footage. In one brilliantly shot sequence in the hospital operating room, we see Dr Jim Carrico (Zac Effron) and a small army of nurses struggling desperately to keep Kennedy alive as blood spattered secret service agents and Jackie Kennedy in that pink dress hover in the background.

Landesman cross-cuts between police offices, the hospital, Zaprudder’s office and the motel at which assassin Lee Harvey Oswald’s deluded mother is staying. There is a poignant sequence in which Robert Oswald (James Badge Dale) meets his brother (Jeremy Strong.) All that Lee Harvey Oswald can think to talk about is that his daughter needs new shoes.

We learn that the Secret Agents had to rip up the seats in Air Force One to make space for Kennedy’s coffin. (They couldn’t bear to have it stored in the hold as if it was just another piece of luggage.) We see the bitter dispute between the Dallas coroner, who wants to do an autopsy, and the secret agents desperate to get Kennedy’s body back to Washington. There is a reconstruction of Lee Harvey Oswald’s own funeral at which photographers acted as pall bearers because there were no other mourners. 

We see FBI agent James Hosty destroying evidence of Oswald’s communications with the FBI. All this background detail is fine but seems inconsequential given the magnitude of the event at the heart of the film, namely Kennedy’s death. It doesn’t help, either, that with so many characters flitting in and out of the film, there is no time to develop any of them in any depth.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific