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A very undignified end for a very dignified man.
James Badge Dale – Robert Edward Lee Oswald Jr.
Jeremy Strong – Lee Harvey Oswald
Jackie Weaver – Marguerite Oswald
Zac Efron – Dr. Charles “Jim” Carrico
Brett Stimely – President John F. Kennedy
Kat Steffens – First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy
Marcia Gay Harden – Nurse Doris Nelson
Paul Giamatti – Abraham Zapruder
Ron Livingston – James Hosty
Billy Bob Thornton – Secret Service Agent Forrest Sorrels
Colin Hanks – Dr. Malcolm O. Perry
Jackie Earle Haley – Father Oscar Hubert
Mark Duplass – Kenneth O’Donnell
Tom Welling – Secret Service Agent Roy Kellerman
If any of you are expecting a feature-length movie which lives up to the Hollywood cliché of A-list cast, irrelevant sub-plots, romantic encounters between certain characters and outrageous unnecessary action – don’t. Parkland is an emotional in-depth account of what happened within the first few hours of Mr John F. Kennedy being assassinated.
Unlike many features which focus solely on the main characters – and the events which ripple around them, Parkland centres on the ‘background people’; the amazing people who have to deal with the aftershock of such a horrific event. Its one thing being in the area at the time of JFK’s shooting and standing there (clutching a handkerchief) being “terribly upset” about it – but think about the doctors and nurses who had to actually deal with the man who had been shot..
Yes, most people offer the useful information, “I remember where I was when it happened”.
Those fuckers weren’t on the front line, having to pick up the pieces. This movie is an account of that day; the moment it happened, and how the doctors dealt with John when his body entered the hospital. And the result is an emotional display of how the trauma had an impact on those involved, as well as a test of human character.
Most of us are aware of the events which unfolded that day, so I won’t be delving into the story, but pointing out the elements of this movie overall.
Friday, November 22, 1963. Dallas, Texas. And the setting was great; we have the blocky outdoor area around the road that Kennedy was shot on; the director blends actors and set with real footage of the incident. Parkland Memorial Hospital is the first place we get a glimpse of (this part is staged; actors as nurses, etc.), and then we go back to the street.
Overall, the transition of genuine footage to movie and back again, wasn’t too bad. Usually you have those films which use real footage, but it is obvious when we are shifted from the film to the tape; with Parkland the footage was literally like jumping camera shot to camera shot, however surreal the sudden change in detail seemed.
..three gunshots ring out.
Abraham Zapruder (Giamatti) who is perched on a tall concrete block, yanks the camera he is holding in his hand away from his face, and jumps down in panic. He dashes away, leaving his female partner standing by the block, paralysed with shock. And she wasn’t the only one.. This brief scene involving Paul Giamatti was just awful – I thought he was taking the piss at first; his laid-back attitude to having just witnessed the President being shot was surreal. The way he shouted, “oh my God, they shot him! They shot him!” was almost as if this was a rehearsal – except a cameraman (Giamatti) had stepped in to improvise for the actual actor who failed to show. Honestly. His acting just wasn’t strong enough; especially considering how incredibly epic this event was.
Perhaps Giamatti had researched into Zapruder’s personality and lifestyle – thus recreating his actual characteristics and reaction to the assassination – in which case, I’ll hold my hands up now and admit I’m wrong.. but if not, then by God they seriously miscast this actor to play the part.
Doctor Charles Carrico (Efron) is slouched – open-legged, mouth hanging open – on the sofa of Parkland hospital’s staff room. He’s clearly been working flat out. But suddenly, a phone rings, and he is called back to work. As he stands in the hospital operating theatre pinning x-rays onto a board, nurse Doris Nelson approaches him and announces that the president is coming in. To which he replies, “he’s probably got the flu again”..
This calm, sleepy scene suddenly explodes into a raging storm of panic.
The dynamics of this scene are fantastic; we begin with a nurse and a doctor calmly discussing work, then the tension starts to rise as the doors burst open and the body is wheeled in on a trolley. Much commotion leads to a sudden pause, as Dr. Carrico stands dumbfounded, staring down at the man laying before him. Efron displays superb acting quality here – which only gets better..
The pause as Dr. Carrico stands staring at John Kennedy is quickly extinguished, as resuscitation begins. You’ve never seen so many emotions in one scene; intrigue and suspense fill the screen to begin with, but quickly give way to panic. As the nurses try to save the president, a feeling of fear fills the air.. and then, a split-second relieving calm settles over everyone – and then, the dread and sadness kick in.
When the president is pronounced dead, Jacqueline has to be the most quietest member of the room. During Dr. Carrico administering CPR, she is seen walking very slowly to the opposite end of the emergency room and facing anywhere but John. She then turns around and collapses on the floor, just waiting..
Once his death is announced, we watch as Jacqueline holds his hand and cries out in agony.
This entire scene was eerie; the whole silence thing from a dying man’s wife. In most films, we get the hysterical blood-curdling “NOOOOOOO” – screaming, and hysterical actions. But Jacqueline Kennedy couldn’t have been quieter. I was silently hoping she (Kat Steffens) would engulf the audience in just one howl – to send a shiver down my spine – but she did not. Oh she weeped, of course. It just wasn’t as dramatic as I imagined. But again, perhaps she reacted (based on research) exactly how Jacqueline did. Everyone reacts in different ways, after all.
We get to live out the entire scenario, second by second. So obviously even the smallest of decisions are witnessed. One being president Kennedy’s underwear..
As the hospital staff cut away his clothing, they get to the pants. This is the moment Dr. Carrico stops everyone by putting his hand over the president, and he quietly murmurs, “not those. Leave those”
I felt a sudden pang of sadness somewhere within myself. Seriously. This poor beautiful man, as wonderful as he was, brought crashing down.. laying on a hospital bed, in his pants. Just that simple everyday decision would have mean’t the dignity of John F. Kennedy completely evaporating. Dr. Carrico saved any last traces of dignity the president had left.
This scene genuinely made me feel a deep sympathy for him. It grabbed hold of me in a way I didn’t think it would. The poor guy.
As a radio announcement of president Kennedy’s shooting is broadcast, a man sitting at his office desk suddenly looks up. The name plaque on the desk reads Robert Edward Lee Oswald. His stunned features are frozen solid as the rest of him moves around the room, to the glares of his work colleagues.
“is that your brother?..” one of them asks…
Skip forward a little, and we have Robert sitting in front of plate glass. Subsequently his brother, Lee Harvey Oswald enters the room on the other side of the glass, and they both begin speaking through a telephone.
..what a fucking burden! Honestly. What we see next is the unravelling of Robert Oswald’s life – because of his brother. People despise him – because of something he himself, has not done. Its not until one of the Police deputies approaches Robert and says, “if I were you, I’d move as far from here as I could. I’d never come back – even to die”, that it hits home that this is a burden placed upon the shoulders of an innocent man, and he and his family have to deal with for the rest of their lives – its the ultimate outward ripple, and Robert is caught in the very middle. The very thought is terrifying. And heartbreaking.
Marguerite Oswald (played superbly by Jackie Weaver) strides into our midsts, and she shows absolutely no signs of remorse as to what her son has done. In fact, she and Robert are complete opposites..
A stern face, she announces that Lee has “done more for his country than any other human being”. Just these words coming out of her mouth made me shiver. She clearly supports her son even though he just murdered one of the most important men in the world.
Jackie plays Marguerite without fault. Her stiff posture and the way she holds her head up without showing the slightest flicker of emotion are incredibly strong. She isn’t in the movie for very long, but makes such an impact. Overall, the character is eerie; her attitude is jaw-dropping. It must have been a burden in itself, having been cast as the mother of one of history’s most resented men – but she delivered superbly.
The funeral scene of Lee Harvey Oswald is raw.
But firstly, insult is more than added to injury when Lee himself is gunned down by Mr Jack Ruby (a nightclub operator in Dallas, Texas) – a man who clearly wanted revenge. The insult comes, as Lee is rushed to the emergency department of – you guessed it – Parkland Memorial Hospital. To say the doctors and nurses are stunned would be an understatement.
When Lee dies, his body is taken to a local grounds by his brother (and the rest of the family) in an unmarked car, with no funeral directors or priest. Its just them. Robert has to beg a few members of the Press (who are gathered nearby, taking photos) to help, by acting as pallbearers. And as no mourners turned up to his funeral either, it is just Marguerite (who sits sobbing hysterically), Lee’s wife and children, and Robert. A vicar is brought in (as a favour) to conduct a short ceremony.
It is confirmed by a friend of Robert’s that the burial plot is only available to them, because it is given to them as ‘a favour’.
The harrowing scenario swamped in shame, pity, upset – It is all played out fantastically in this scene; Badge Dale and Weaver are actors whose talents fuse together and deliver a very upsetting portrayal of a family’s poisoned reputation. Just fantastic.
I was extremely impressed by this movie; not just because of the quality of acting, but because of its premise. We usually get those epics about huge wars, ships sinking, doomed space missions.. this one was different. There could be a movie made about the assassination of JFK, which would probably go on forever, delving into the relationships between family members, between the government colleagues, etc. – but Parkland explored the parallel. It went a step further, and used the main story as a by-product in order to give us the scenario which unfolded after the incident that took place.
This in itself is to be applauded; to see the whole thing from somebody else’s point of view. A detailed (but not too deep) “this is how we dealt with it” through the eyes of the nurses at the hospital.
And the fact this movie didn’t get too deep was one of the elements that kept me engrossed. As soon as main characters were introduced, that was it; no lengthy background checks, no boring stories, simply: bang – this is him – bang – this is what he did about it.
A beautiful man with copper-coloured hair. Dressed smartly, and full of compassion, lays on an operating table, spattered with blood. And he shouldn’t be there.
This movie was fantastic. Definitely worth a watch if you can get to see it.