I knew going into this movie that Natalie Portman had been lauded for her performance, but I still don’t know what made her the best choice to play Jackie Robinson. HAHAHAHA. Boom. Get it? No, I’m just goofing around. This movie is actually about Jackie Kennedy in the days leading up to and following the assassination of her husband (spoiler alert). Wait, now that I’ve told you what Jackie is about, how am I supposed to describe it’s plot? Well, shit, I guess I’ll just have to give it a shot and see what happens.
I’m sure Sarsgaard would just channel the reviews for Green Lantern any time he needed to be sad.
Ya know how I already said that this movie’s plot is about the days leading up to and immediately following John F. Kennedy’s assassination? Well, that’s what it’s about. The story is framed with a reporter (Billy Crudup) getting a firsthand account of the tragedy Jackie went through, from her husband’s limp body collapsing on her lap, to telling her children, to making funeral arrangements, to getting kicked out of the White House. Even though there isn’t some massive, convoluted plot, the film’s effectiveness lies in its simplicity and the mundane ordeal of putting a loved one to rest, and how it could feel like a kingdom you have built has just crumbled.
Welp, this sequence has guaranteed I won’t listen to The Misfits’ “Bullet” in quite the same way again.
Without Natalie Portman’s performance as the former first lady, this film wouldn’t have worked. I can’t think of another actress of her generation who could’ve conveyed so much sadness, sense of responsibility, and motivation they way she did so effortlessly. The film jumps back and forth over the course of just a few weeks, but the way Portman plays the sullen Jackie in the wake of what has happened looks like she’s aged years. If you’re not familiar with the real Jackie or the accents of the Kennedy family, her voice is immediately jarring, but as you grow accustomed to it, you realize it’s just another way for the actress to completely embody the spirit and physicality of the historical icon. Portman is one of my favorite actresses and I never felt like I was watching her on-screen, but actually seeing Jackie Kennedy. What’s also exceptional is that the camera never feels like it’s more than six feet from the actress at any given moment, capturing every single nuance, facial expression, and quiver in her voice.
People’s hair used to actually do this!
Speaking of the camerawork, director Pablo Larraín shot and edited this movie more like a song than a traditional film. There’s a repetition with the interview scenes that form a chorus, there are shots that show Jackie from behind at different stages of the ordeal that feel like reprises on the original theme, while deviations from this formula create verses, bridges, and solos. Combine the fluidity of the editing with Mica Levi‘s score, and the film feels more like an experience to behold more than a story you watch play out.
Guys, I don’t want to alarm you, but someone let the zodiac killer into the White House!
Ultimately, Jackie captured a unique time in American politics that are eerily similar to the current state of our country. The Kennedy family were beautiful, young (by presidential standards), and expressed interests in the arts. The pair were incredibly charming, much in the same way the public view Barack and Michelle Obama. As Robert Kennedy (played by Peter Sarsgaard) describes in the film, JFK never achieved as much with his presidency as he wanted to, but people still consider him one of the most memorable presidents. That’s quite a legacy for someone who hadn’t accomplished as much as presidents both before and after him, but it shows the power that charm and charisma have in the public’s eye. That point also holds true that you don’t have to be remembered for your accomplishments, but merely be remembered for being memorable. In a couple months, a reality TV show star will be inaugurated, due in large part to the American people just being able to recognize him at all, rather than choosing him as the best choice because of his previous accomplishments. Jackie showcases a family that achieved the American dream, were on the brink of changing the world, and with one single, heinous act, their entire kingdom was destroyed. It’s also a chilling reminder that for every act of violence, no matter who is the victim, no matter what their walk of life, that acts of brutality leave a lasting wake that reverberates for years.
Wolfman Moon Scale