Jackie is a biographical drama about then First Lady Jackie Kennedy in the days after the assassination of President Kennedy. It begins a week after the assassination and shows her being interviewed by Life magazine’s Theodore White. She retells the events of that day and the few days after leading up to his burial.
I have to say I found this film fascinating and Natalie Portman’s performance is amazing. The film was stuck in development for a few years, originally as an HBO miniseries. It went through different stars and directors being attached before finally being made with Chilean Director Pablo Larrain in his first english language film. He does a good job, mixing archive footage with recreations to make it all seamless. He also did a great job of staying true to the period, which can be difficult when trying to film in the real locations the events took place. The score also stood out for me, by Mica Levi. Only her second film score and she is nominated, making her only the 3rd female composer ever to have that honor.
The supporting cast featured Billy Crudup(Almost Famous, Watchmen, Spotlight) as the journalist who interviews her. John Hurt(Alien, Harry Potter) as Father McSorley who gives her religious counsel before the ceremony at Arlington. She held a lot of guilt and blamed herself for not doing more to save him. They also hinted at problems in the marriage but didn’t go too in depth as we’ve heard it all before. This was sadly his last film role released before his death. Peter Sarsgaard(Green Lantern, The Killing) played a conflicted Robert Kennedy. He tries to help Jackie as best he can but he was also disappointed that the administration essentially failed to live up to the great goals they set.
This film really surprised me with how much new information I learned about those few days in November of 1963. I am pretty well versed on those events, I’ve been to Dallas where he was killed, I’ve been to his grave in Arlington, I’ve read books, and seen TV shows and movies all about it. However this was the first to focus on her perspective. Her point of view really brought a new appreciation for what she went through. She was very emotional in those few days, but also strong. Jackie always had the best interests of the country and her kids in mind. The First Lady was immediately dealt a tough hand becoming a widowed single mother and being kicked out of her home, however still needing to be the strong face for America in such an uncertain time. Eventhough Jackie valued her privacy, she also wanted the world to see the effects on her and her children. She had to plan the funeral, tell her kids about their dad and be strong for them, and celebrate her son’s 3rd birthday, all while also dealing with the transition of power for the new administration.
Natalie Portman proved she was more that just the fashion icon we know today.The film highlighted her work in those 2+ years she was in the White House where she tried to restore the White House to make it historically accurate and pay homage to the great men who lived there before. She was also a champion for the humanities, appreciating the arts and music and trying to feature them at the White House like no one had done before her. Natalie Portman studied films of Jackie to get her accent and mannerisms just right. It was more than an impression, but a passionate portrayal. If it didn’t already seem to be Viola Davis’ year, I’d say Portman should walk away with the best actress Oscar. I also am a little surprised it didn’t sneak in as the 10th Best Picture nominee.
A word of caution, when they do finally recreate the shooting of JFK, it is a little bit of a gory sequence, so be advised. Otherwise, I highly recommend Jackie. Natalie Portman really sells the role and shows how those few days solidified Jackie as a cultural icon through her poise and dignity. A lot has changed since those times when the office of President commanded much more respect than it does now. They were like our royal family and I sadly don’t think we’ll see that again in our lifetime. Go check out Jackie to learn something new about our country’s history and to enjoy a fantastic piece of acting.