Thursday, October 3, 2013

Parkland Movie Review

Paul Giamatti stars in Peter Landesman's Parkland

Four Days of Hell

Few dates in American history equal November 22, 1963, one of four days covered in Peter Landesman's directorial debut Parkland. What begins as "a nice day for a motorcade" quickly unfolds into a jumbled mess, poorly shot, randomly cast and sentimental to a fault. And to think this could serve as a history lesson to some... Yikes.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: PARKLAND recounts the chaotic events that occurred in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Written and directed by Peter Landesman and produced by Playtone partners Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, Bill Paxton and Exclusive Media's Nigel Sinclair and Matt Jackson, PARKLAND is the ferocious, heart-stopping and powerful true story never told of the people behind the scenes of one of the most scrutinized events in history.

What’s Best: The concept is interesting, but poorly executed: I can't help but wonder what Parkland could have been, in the hands of a more capable filmmaker. I was bored to tears; but "came to" long enough to appreciate a compelling scene where Secret Service agents try to wedge JFK's coffin into Air Force One. Also, Jacki Weaver is a hoot as Lee Harvey Oswald's nutty mother, 'It's my story too,' who bursts into a room like a pint-sized Truman Capote and yells, 'Lee was a US agent! He should be buried at Arlington Cemetery alongside President Kennedy.' Talk about perfect timing.

What’s Not: Just about everything else. Poor camera work (jerky close-ups that give way to extreme close-ups... who does that?) and disproportionate screen time given to insignificant moments (not even Marty Scorsese could make developing film seem compelling, yet alone interesting) are just two reasons Parkland strikes out as a movie.

But all that pales in comparison to the horrendous jobs Lindsay Graham and Mary Vernieu do on casting. Jackie Earle Haley as a priest? His three most famous roles beforehand? A pedophile in Little Children, Freddy Krueger and Rorschach in Watchmen. Nice. Zac Efron as a befuddled young doctor, whose biggest contribution is keeping the President's underwear on? Colin Hanks as Zac's superior? Hey look, his dad Tom is one of the producers: I'm sure that's just a coincidence. All we need now is a young Superman (Smallville's Tom Welling) to round out the ensemble. It's as if they took a bunch of marginally famous people, dumped their names in a hat and divvied up the roles accordingly.

Best/Worst Line: If the intention was to make medical examiner Earl Rose (Rory Cochrane) look like an ass and an idiot, then kudos to Landesman & co. for succeeding. His 0 to 60 turn, inside a tense operating room, 'That is my body!' is eclipsed only by his equally insensitive, 'I deal with widows every day,' directed at Mrs. Kennedy just moments after her husband died.

Speaking of sensitivity, keep an ear out for Glenn Morshower's 'Don't get excited. Lee's been shot,' while breaking the news of Lee Harvey being killed (on live TV) to his brother and mother. Why would anyone get excited over that?

Overall: I thought Emilio Estevez's Bobby was random and disjointed, but Parkland takes the cake. Landesman makes a point of avoiding faces (you never get a clear shot of JFK) the shooting itself, and conspiracies; yet has no problem highlighting the transfer of brain matter from Jackie to head nurse Doris Nelson (Marcia Gay Harden) nor painfully obvious allusions to FBI cover-ups.

Acting is lackadaisical for the most part, and down right bad in others (Ron Livingston as the FBI agent who commits "the biggest fuck-up in the history of law enforcement," leaps to mind.) Ditto for Paul Giamatti's overtly dramatic (uh-oh, there's that word again) looks of angst... in between shark-like posturing, 'I need to think,' when asked to show his film to the Secret Service, or his drawn-out negotiations with a Life magazine editor, he wound up selling the film to (for $150K.) There's a wealth of talent at Landesman's disposal; but he fails to extract it properly, leaving his audience (and any chance of success) in the dark.

Grade: D-