Film Review – Jackie
Jackie tells the story of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (Jackie) following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (JFK). The film begins in 1963, one week after Jackie (Natalie Portman) and her children move out of the White House. A journalist (Billy Crudup) shows up to her house in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts to write a story on her version of her time in the White House and the assassination. Using this interview, the film flashes back to Jackie both during the trip to Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, bringing JFK’s body back to D.C., his funeral, and how she coped with this devastating change in her life.
There have been all too many television movies and films that have focused on the life of the Kennedys, and some have focused their attention mainly on Jackie. This film does not necessarily tread on new material, and I would not classify it as a strict biopic. It is not based on any book or memoir, and the script is written by Noah Oppenheim whose other two film credits are Allegiant and The Maze Runner. To say the least, it is new territory for Oppenheim. Director Pablo Larraín (No, Neruda) takes the script and makes it more visceral and his scenes blend with footage of that time.
Natalie Portman has already been lauded by critics for her performance as Jackie. The film keeps a tight focus on Jackie, so it relies heavily on Portman being able to convincingly portray such an iconic figure. And that she does, but this is not a cheery Jackie, but one already coming unhinged when her husband is assassinated right next to her in a car. Her voice is very similar to Jackie’s and that along with the hair and costumes, allows Portman to disappear into this character. The film’s Jackie is dependent on pills, her social secretary Nancy Tuckerman (Greta Gerwig) and Bobby Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard) to make it through the short time period on which the film focuses. The climax of Portman’s Jackie is the close-up of her crying hysterically while wiping her husband’s blood off her face.
The way the Larraín melded historical footage with his own is another highlight of Jackie. The film itself has a film quality about it, rather than high definition detail of digital. The scenes are somewhat grainy, lending itself to be easily blended with historical footage. Larraín also recreated the television special that Jackie did to show The White House to its people, but there were also traces of the original in the sequences, including voices.
Another distinct character of this film is the score by Mica Levi (Under the Skin). Its low, bass tones using strings stand out the most, conveying the despair of Jackie and the downfall of “Camelot.” The score is featured heavily both at the beginning and end of the film; you are meant to notice the score and the tone it is setting.
After all the versions of the Kennedys’ story told on both the small and big screen, Jackie is not a needed addition to the anthology. However, its focus on such a small period of time in Jackie’s life gives the film room to explore the details. The audience should take Jackie with a grain of salt. It is not the truth, but a film based on the facts known of what occurred during the aftermath of JFK’s assassination. It is disturbing, gritty, and well worth seeing if only for Portman’s performance and your undying curiosity about Jackie Kennedy.
In Dallas, the locals will be intrigued by another film involving JFK’s assassination, but then dismayed that none of it was filmed locally.