The premise is intriguing and then some. As we near the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination in Dallas, this movie examines that tragedy through the events that transpired when the bloodied body of the president was taken to Parkland Hospital. Based on Vincent Bugliosi’s Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the film might have made for a stirring documentary. Instead, first-time director Peter Landesman opts to treat history as a parade of cameos from the famous and not-so-famous. Is that Zac Efron as a doctor struggling to save the president? It is. And that’s Billy Bob Thornton as a harried Secret Service agent. And look, over there, it’s Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden as an ER nurse. And you can’t miss Silver Linings Playbook Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver, since she’s playing the mom of Lee Harvey Oswald (Jeremy Strong) with a nut-job excess that shatters any semblance of reality.
Out of mercy, I won’t go on, except to note a few performances that cut through the cheesy histrionics. Paul Giamatti is solid and touching as Abraham Zapruder, who with his 8mm camera captured the bullets striking Kennedy. Ron Livingston brings bruised dignity to James Hosty, the FBI agent who had a file on Oswald he never acted upon and was ordered to suppress. James Badge Dale as Oswald’s brother Robert, subtle and a ecting, suggests the movie that might have been. Sadly, what Parkland becomes is a crying shame.