- Composed by James Newton Howard
- Rhino / 2013 / 54m
This film chronicles the events which overtook the lives of a group of ordinary people in Dallas after President Kennedy was shot (including the staff at the hospital to which he was taken, called Parkland). It has opened to largely mediocre reviews, many citing a lack of focus as it attempts to replay the painful situation over and over again through different characters’ points of view. Director Peter Landesman – making his first film – managed to secure the services of an A-list composer to help bind the score together. James Newton Howard’s highly variable output includes a few more serious dramas where he seems content to allow his music to always exist completely in the background and Parkland is another score along those lines. While I would hardly expect the score to a film like this to be leaping off the screen, it sounds like the primary purpose of the music here is to avoid being noticed, which seems an odd road to take.
The highlight without question is the trumpet solo which graces the opening cue, “John F. Kennedy” – it’s respectfully mournful, but it’s music – there’s a dramatic purpose to it. While the trumpet is heard again in snatches here and there later in the score, for the most part all we hear are the subtlest of drum loops, occasionally with meandering strings which are virtually inaudible. Clearly Howard was right to write music that is respectful of its subject, but I’d have thought there was a way of doing it in a way that allowed a little more freedom of expression than this. At last there’s a semblance of feeling in “Get Him on the Plane”, with its tragic chorus (though even here things are kept mostly very subtle); and there’s just a hint of feeling in “Coffin”. Parkland is a relentlessly depressing album, one which wallows in misery from start to finish and apart from its opening track and the couple mentioned just now, offers not the merest glint of emotion. Maybe it works in the film (maybe) but it certainly doesn’t work away from it.