“Jackie” is a film about what Jacqueline “Jackie” Kennedy had to endure directly after the assassination of not just the President of the United States of America, the country she loved so much and the man she most admired, but the assassination of her husband, Jack Kennedy, who was that President. It’s an accurate portrayal of a woman in agony. She loses the husband she always had to share with the world and has to share the pain of this, as well. Nothing can be personal; nothing private. The delicate nature of the story itself is handled beautifully. To your joy, what is evident from the first moment she speaks is that Portman will not only get a Best Actress nomination but quite possibly win the Oscar this year. She is Jackie.
To begin the film the theatre goes dark and sounds of gun shots fill the house. It’s November 22, 1963. Dallas. We also spend time in 1961 when the First Lady is giving a tour of the White House. This is broadcast on television and is, some would consider, the defining moment for the American people, who fell in love with Jackie when Kennedy first took office, that she was their queen. Why we’re flashing back to her life becomes clear when we are suddenly in a room on her estate in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts with “the journalist” (Crudup) from Life Magazine who is there to talk to her for his publication about the assassination and her life since.
Many have told the Kennedy stories in books and on film but not so have they delved quite so deeply into the woman behind the man especially when it comes to touching the sensitive subject of her life directly after the his death.
Quite addled, she clings to what she has left of the soon to be past position she held of First Lady with more than high acclaim in the world. There are key moments in the film where we see her pain and if you’ve done any Kennedy reading you’ll recognize the truth telling of this piece, especially about why she wore her blood-stained dress, ‘Let them see what they’ve done’, and how difficult it became for, not only her, but for the Johnsons’ to get her to leave, which is why I appreciated this movie even more.
Using real clips mixed in with those of director of photography, Stéphane Fontaine, who also shot this years, “Captain Fantastic”, one of my top five for 2016, Larraín creates for us the real trauma that was happening at the time. The story may not be pretty but it does her justice in a way that it shows not only her vulnerability and vanity but her misery and contempt for what “they” did to her. Writer Noah Oppenheim tells of one of the darkest times, the story of Jackie planning Jack’s funeral procession. She wants the world to know that a good man was murdered and much to the chagrin of all around her, she wants the parade to be long and large, one like that of Lincoln. Being, clearly, a very intelligent woman, she knew her children were at risk so she takes certain precautions with them during this time.
As I previously mention, Portman is fascinating in this role. Billy Crudup isn’t really given much to do but be a character for Portman to act opposite of. His character could have been a lamp and it wouldn’t have mattered. Sarsgaard isn’t the best Bobby but again, the film was not about him; it’s about Jackie and if you want to see a film where only one role is sufficient enough for the film to stand on its own, it’s this. Only she is truly necessary to move the story along. This is a must see for anyone who likes biography’s and for anyone who lived through the Kennedy era and like to peek inside the dynasty that once was. It’s a brave film. It isn’t the tale of Camelot but a reminder of how it all ended; how one woman suffered through it and how we as a country were never the same.