He died with his shorts on
As you might expect from someone who admits he obsesses about the Kennedy assassination, I bolted out of work Friday to catch a matinee of "Parkland", the Tom Hanks-produced opus about the murder released a month and change before the event's 50th anniversary.
Not that it was easy to find a screening, which says a lot by itself.
Mayfair is the only area cinema I could find that had given "Parkland" a screen. I was one of four people in the theater for the 12:40 show and one might've been there reluctantly--a young woman who came to (apologetically) read any printed matter on the screen to an elderly seat mate.
And that tells you even more about the film, one who's making I questioned in a previous blog--Hanks' just-the-facts-ma'am approach won't give the movie the controversial buzz Oliver Stone's "JFK" did en route to becoming a blockbuster, and a mere retelling of November 22nd's awful details isn't going to shed any new light on a generation-altering event. It's only going to remind those of us who lived through it just how truly sad and meaningless the assassination was.
"Parkland" does THAT in spades.
It's authentic, from everything I've read. I could find very few factual mistakes or cinematic enhancements. I've read William Manchester's "The Death of a President", Jim Bishop's "The Day Kennedy Was Shot" and Vincent Bugliosi's more recent "Retelling History" and what's on the screen parrots pretty much what all three books describe. The average, non-JFK-obsessed movie goer may not know how the the transition of power was ad-libbed from Kennedy to Lyndon Johnson in the minutes after JFK's shooting, that Kennedy's body was literally bum-rushed out of Dallas away from a cold-hearted but legally correct local medical examiner who wanted a Dallas autopsy to preserve the chain of evidence. You mayben didn't know that Kennedy and accused killer Lee Harvey Oswald died 48 hours and mere feet away from each other in emergency rooms a hallway apart at Parkland Memorial Hospital.
Or that Kennedy died with his shoes off but his boxer shorts on.
We already knew, though, that agencies were in massive cover-your-ass mode after the death, making sure they could explain why they weren't watching Oswald in the months before. We already knew the killer's mother was a money-hungry, conspiracy-spewing, attention-craving, remorseless shrew and that Oswald's brother was one of the few noble souls to emerge from the whole awful mess. There's a enlightening look into Abraham Zapruder (played so well by Paul Giamatti) who saw his enthusiastic home movie turn into a graphic relic that would haunt him the seven years that he lived on after his beloved JFK.
That is what "Parkland" lacks more of. The new angle. The different take. It captures the pain and it puts on screen a lot of what has already been written down, but was it necessary? For all of the lies, distortions and half-truths contained within Stone's "JFK", the film did a service by regenerating interest in the assassination and opening new discussions. Sure, it also tainted the opinions of those who saw the movie as gospel and who chose not to do any further research, but the fact is the controversy also fleshed out truth in the person of author Gerald Posner who penned "Case Closed" in the movie's wake, a book that pretty much laid to rest many of the conspiracies Stone revived.
I don't think "Parkland" will do that. The nation's critics don't seem to care for it much, either, so don't expect much of a crowd at the theater if you decide to see it. The L-A Times' Peter DeBruge summed the movie up well in the opening paragraph of his dissection, calling it a "painful retelling...in which the two least important players seem to be JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald." He calls "Parkland" an "inadvertently tacky re-staging of events. Timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the tragedy, this film will swiftly be forgotten in the face of more tasteful mementos."