Directed in docudrama style by first-time filmmaker, longtime journalist Peter Landesman, “Parkland” offers an insider-on-the ground look at the moment-tomoment events before, during and after the sniper shots that took JFK’s life and sent the country into chaos. What’s fascinating is seeing how the “little people” saw it: the enforcement officers, hospital workers, eyewitness observers and shadow players in this great American tragedy.
Parkland is the Dallas hospital where Kennedy and, two days later, his reported assassin Lee Harvey Oswald (Jeremy Strong) were taken. No nonsense nurse Doris Nelson (Marcia Gay Harden) forbids the dying Oswald from entering the same emergency room where the President passed away. Jacqueline Kennedy (Kat Steffens) places her wedding ring on her husband’s pinky finger when death is pronounced (“It’s time to say goodbye,” she’s told). Much is made of the 8mm home movie shot by Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti), “The only record we have of the assassination,” says Dallas Secret Service Agent Forrest Sorrels (Billy Bob Thornton). Oswald’s brother Robert (James Bridge Dale) is strangely enough one of the few who keeps his calm amid the confusion. This is despite the Oswald mother Marguerite (Jacki Weaver) rants of “This is my story, too!” and her insistence that Lee was an agent working for the U.S. government (“He should be buried in Arlington National Cemetery with the President,” she demands).
Based on the book, “Four Days in November,” by Vincent Bugliosi, “Parkland” is an intense trip down memory lane for those strong of stomach and stamina. It’s been half a century, but “Parkland” brings it all back.