Gravitas literally drips off the screen during “Parkland,” director Peter Landesman’s impressionistic look at the three days surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Somber music spills from the soundtrack, people fret and pray while Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley pontificate on “one of the more horrible days in American history.”
Trouble is, there’s no story.
Instead, it’s a character study of the folks, from the doctors and nurses at Parkland Memorial who tried to save JFK’s life (Zak Efron, Colin Hanks and Marcia Gay Harden) to secret service and law enforcement officers on the scene (Billy Bob Thornton, Ron Livingston) to Lee Harvey Oswald’s family (James Badge Dale, Jacki Weaver) to the reporters who broke the story (Mark Duplass) and the man who took the most famous images of the shooting, Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti).
It’s a sprawling cast who all vie for enough screen time to make an impact in this fast moving but ultimately ineffective study of the time.
The period details are all in place, and Giamatti, Dale and Thornton shine, but former journalist-turned-director Landesman’s lack of a point of view adds nothing to this often told tale.
In conversation Colin Hanks is an affable guy. He laughs easily, sounding a great deal like his famous father Tom. It’s a good thing he’s has a sociable disposition because he’s been spending a great deal of time lately doing something he doesn’t always enjoy—chatting to the press.
“You get asked the same things over and over again,” he says. “That’s the nature of the press junket. I’ve had some great press junkets that have been a piece of cake and I’ve had some that have been torturous. Like watching paint dry off of the inside of my eyelids. But, it’s part of the gig.”
He cites the example of being asked about his favorite color. “I don’t think about my favorite color. It’s just my favorite color. Now, talk about it for five minutes. I can’t!”
“I’m incredibly lucky to get to do what I do and this is another part of the job, which I don’t think a lot of people understand. They think that this is the fun part and it’s not. The fun part for me is the make believe.”
He is happy, however, to chat about his new movie.
High School is a stoner comedy about a MIT-bound student who smokes a joint a day before mandatory drug tests and a zero tolerance policy for weed are announced in his school. To avoid being expelled he concocts a plan to get everyone in his school high, figuring that if everyone fails the drug test no one will be expelled.
Hanks is Brandon, the school’s assistant principal, who “likes the kids, but hates his boss,” played by Michael Chiklis. “I don’t think it is any mistake that Brandon is able to put two and two together and find out what this familiar sensation is that he’s feeling and realize that the entire school is stoned.”
It’s an outrageous comedy, but Hanks chose to underplay his character. “It’s more fun that way,” he says. “I always like that kind of comedy. I like the big broader type guy and then you cut to the guy who is a little more subdued who is smirking and can’t believe the stuff he’s hearing. I always like that so I took a team player approach. I knew eventually you were going to see my character go off, and go nuts, and he has that moment, so why not work to that moment?”