Hunter S. Thompson's famous Wave Speech from 1971's Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas identified the hippie movement's 'high watermark, the place where the wave finally broke and rolled back' as some unspecified time in 1966/67, but Parkland makes a case for the high watermark being moved back to an exact date, November 22nd, 1963, to a specific street, Elm Street, Dallas, and to a precise moment - the second that last bullet hit President John F. Kennedy. It's in the faces of the cast here: they have not only lost their president, a seismic loss of its own, but also an entire future. After this came Vietnam. Then Nixon.
Adapted from Vincent Bugliosi's Four Days In November, Parkland, after a brief set up and a who's who introduction, explores the immediate fallout of JFK's assassination through the eyes of those in Dallas that day. There is Zac Efron and Colin Hanks, the doctors of the eponymous hospital; Paul Giamatti's Abraham Zapruder, who filmed the shooting and Secret Service agent Billy Bob Thornton who wants the film; there's Mark Duplass' shocked bodyguard and Ron Livingston's FBI agent who realises that Lee Harvey Oswald was in his office only weeks before; and there's Oswald's brother, James Badge Dale, and mother, Jacki Weaver, trying to make sense of it in very different ways.
Parkland revels in the lesser known moments of that day. Jackie Kennedy circling the table her dying husband lies on holding his brain tissue in her bloody hands, or Zapruder hounded by TV and magazines for the rights to his film. The logistics of removing plane seats and taking a saw to a partition wall on Air Force One to make room for the coffin is strangely engrossing. It's interesting too to see the scenes Oliver Stone shrouded in conspiracy in JFK - like the removal of the body from the hospital before the coroner examined it - play out here devoid of all that paranoia.
It doesn't behave like a multi-plotted film - there's no real character arc, narrative line or rising action (even the hospital doesn't play a part that would warrant the film's title) - but Giamatti's Zapruder, through whose terrific reaction we get to experience the shooting, states the film's raison d'etre, the sudden end to Kennedy's Camelot: his family came to America in search of "…an American life… but all that is over now."