Parkland

Rating: Parkland is a film that forces you to remember that which you would rather forget.

ParklandWhile Director Peter Landesman uses many fine actors to good effect in Parkland, it is not an easy movie to watch. Dealing with the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the three ensuing days in November, 1963, you are forced to relive a moment of complete horror that cannot be forgotten.

Using actual footage from that dreaded day in Dallas, which includes the use of Abraham Zapruder’s film, you remember, in the words of singer/songwriter Don McLean, “The Day the Music Died”. JFK was in his 40s, looking forward to five more years as President. Gunned down at long range by Lee Harvey Oswald, the country was reduced to tears. Jackie Kennedy’s pink suit was covered in blood and her countrymen were left in shock.

The film draws its title from Parkland Hospital, the medical facility in Dallas that received the dying President. Marsha Gay Harden and Zac Efron do a splendid job playing the President’s principal nurse and treating physician, and they felt the pain of the moment.

Contributions are made by the marvelous Paul Giamatti as Abraham Zapruder, the businessman whose attempt to film a seemingly exciting moment captured the death of our President. Billy Bob Thornton is at his laconic best as Forrest Sorrels, the head of JFK’s Secret Service group who felt responsible for his death. Ron Livingston and David Harbour have some interesting moments as two FBI agents who felt they had overlooked a moment 10 days earlier that could have taken Oswald off the street.

However, the surprise weakness of the film is that it spends far too much time dealing with the Oswald family. Both his brother, played with baffled courage by James Badge Dale, and his mother, played by the Oscar nominated Jacki Weaver, hold your attention as they are crushed by the news that their relative has gunned down the President of the United States. However, their agony was all but irrelevant at the time, and it certainly is now.

While the movie, as it related to the Oswalds, would have been better entitled Much Ado About Nothing, it actually helped to capture the dramatic change that occurred in our country following Kennedy’s death. As seen in David Chase’s overlooked gem Not Fade Away, the Beatles were about to hit American radio for the first time shortly after LBJ became President. I was a Junior in high school at that time, and it was like being reborn into another world.

Up until the death of JFK, children largely mirrored their parents in traditional ways. They largely looked the same, dressed the same and acted the same, but that came to a quick end.

Most kids who graduated from high school after 1965 entered a world that parents didn’t understand. Vietnam began and the British music invasion was going full blast, and guys like me dropped our acceptance of crew cuts for much longer hair.

Parents had a hard time understanding their college-age kids, and we were having an equally hard time understanding ourselves. Our parents carried the patriotic feel of World War II, while we were chanting “Make Love, Not War”. Adults who drank focused on martinis and Jack Daniels, while we discovered the advantages of pot.

The parental reaction of James Gandolfini in Not Fade Away represented the reaction of most fathers. Tens of thousands of young American boys would die in Vietnam while those of us who protested were referred to as anti-American. The slogan of our critics, which again represented our parents colleagues, was “America, love it or leave it”. Well, we weren’t going to leave it, but we sure weren’t going to shut up.

But just as we danced on the edge of achieving material change in our country, both Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were also assassinated in 1968. For many of us, while we still valued patriotism, it came with a different definition. That result lives to this day.

For those who criticize the atmosphere and environment of the 1960’s, you’ve got to realize that our political idols were brutally killed while our government sent over 50,000 American boys to their deaths in a fraudulent war in Vietnam. We all changed dramatically, and I for one am proud of that fact.

And if our Congress in Washington wants to hear one other comment from a product of the 1960’s, then let me remind them that JFK, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were all killed by firearms easily obtained by their assassins. To this day we make those same weapons available to our next group of poisoned assassins, and that blame lies on Washington’s doorstep.

Let me simply close with the last 3 stanzas of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” by Peter, Paul and Mary:

Where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing?

Where have all the soldiers gone, long time ago?

Where have all the soldiers gone?

Gone to graveyards, everyone.

Oh, when will they ever learn?

Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone, long time passing?

Where have all the graveyards gone, long time ago?

Where have all the graveyards gone?

Gone to flowers, everyone.

Oh, when will they ever learn?

Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?

Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?

Where have all the flowers gone?

Young girls have picked them, everyone.

Oh, when will they ever learn?

Oh, when will they ever learn?