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Parkland’ takes a much different look at the JFK assassination

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Paul Giamatti, Paul Sparks and Billy Bob Thornton are looking for answers in Parkland, a very different look at the JFK assassination.

Three stars

Parkland Zac Efron, Paul Giamatti, James Badge Dale, Colin Hanks. Directed by Peter Landesman. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday.

Adapted from Vincent Bugliosi’s Four Days in November (which was itself merely the preliminary section of a 1,600-page investigative work, Reclaiming History), Parkland depicts the events of the John F. Kennedy assassination as seen through the eyes of numerous people tangentially connected to it, from the doctors and nurses who treated Kennedy (and later Lee Harvey Oswald) at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital to Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti), the man operating the camera that captured the most famous home-movie footage in history.

Though efforts are made to tug at the heartstrings—mostly by including the bewildered, heartbroken reaction of Oswald’s older brother, Robert (James Badge Dale)—the film is mostly just a meticulous, streamlined reconstruction of the events of November 22-25, 1963, in Dallas, featuring exactly the amount of fascination and frustration that approach would suggest.

Oddly enough, Parkland whiffs most of the really big moments, like the assassination itself, but excels at depicting details that would never occur to you: the difficulty of finding a developer that could handle Zapruder’s film on short notice, for example, or the efforts of grieving Secret Service agents to fit JFK’s coffin through the slim door of Air Force One. Woodrow Wilson allegedly called The Birth of a Nation “history written with lightning”; here, it’s written with a battery-powered flashlight.

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  • Let's put it this way: It makes Scandal look tame.

  • Alfred Molina and John Lithgow bring strong performances in this gentle and heartfelt film.

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