| Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy fights through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children, and define her husband’s historic legacy.
There is so much to say about Jackie, that certainly a movie cannot contain it all. For this reason the choice of focusing on the days after the death of JFK, and the consequent creation of the Myth of her husband, are certainly the most obvious for the portrait of this woman that worked elegantly through history. An interesting conceit of the movie comes out of the interview with Theodore H. White, played by Billy Crudup. The film posits that the enduring myth of “Camelot” was the result of the interviewer’s kindness to the grieving former first lady and the need for such a myth as inspiration for a nation that desperately needed it. The deliberate whitewashing of the truth of JFK as a man and into a legend, would be Jackie’s most enduring labor, or at least in the view of the film.
Natalie Portman portrayed the former First Lady with the poise and grace for which she is remembered publicly, as well as the broken widow struggling to keep her family and her life together in the face of immeasurable tragedy that so few Americans have seen. Being able to portray both sides of the character at the same time is an act of immense dedication and Portman deserves every bit of the praise that has been heaped upon her, however her accent kept taking me out of the film. She did a good job of sounding like her, but when using an actress as well known as her, you know her normal voice too well, so when she talks with a breathy accent like that it takes me out of the illusion and reminds me it is pretend.
“Don’t let it be forgotten that for one brief shining moment, there was a Camelot. There won’t be another Camelot, not another Camelot.”
Chilean director Pablo Larrain was approached by producer Darren Aronofsky after his film The Club (El Club) took the Grand Jury Prize at the Berlin Film Festival in 2015 and though initially shocked at the idea, after some thought he was eager to make the film about the first most iconic and influential First Lady. Larrain is capable of emphasizing the tragedy of this woman’s life, while also pairing it with her enormous sense of elegance she maintained throughout it. I also love the way screenwriter Noah Oppenheim explores the issues of life and death, love and betrayal and our overall search for meaning. There’s plenty of juicy dialogue and skillful layering here.
Pablo Larraín used 16mm and 35mm film to transport you back to the 60’s and give it that grainy stylish feel. The quiet switch of camerawork from steady to handheld is an excellent way of showing the different states Jackie is in at the moment. During the interview scenes, the camera is constantly set. It never flows, shakes, or moves; showing how Jackie, in that moment, is determined to maintain her image with this reporter who is set on gaining personal insight or tragic emotion from her, but she refuses to budge; just like the camera. But even when the camera does turn over to the handheld style, it’s held with grace and beauty, capturing the sunlight shining through the hair of a character, or the flow of the black veil covering the face of a grieving widow. The movie isn’t flawless but it succeeds immensely in Larraín’s ability to establish the right production design, costumes, dialogue, and cinematography for that time period…
…but then there’s the musical score by Mica Levi.
My god this soundtrack is so damn good. Like in Under The Skin, Levi stays in the field of eerie and chilling, but in a much more classical and grand sense. Many of the songs start off as if they are about to soar with beautiful and sweeping violins and harps; but they soon turn sour and dark. What once was extravagant for a brief moment is now tainted, much like the life Jackie had up until everything crumbled. The first scene of the movie encapsulates this perfectly and that is what makes Mica Levi in my eyes, a master composer. Levi’s score has a such a beautiful despair to it, it encapsulates the tone of the story and its lead that it levitates and outshines the entire production. I hope she wins the Oscar for “Best Score”, it should win without a doubt.
The movie is bold enough to show JFK’s death in full graphic detail. Uninterested in playing to our preconceived ideas and feeding our unwillingness to see the Kennedys as anything other than historical figures to love and admire, it goes for the throat and aspires to tell a story of grief as merciless as grief itself can be. It’s not going to be to everyone’s taste, being captivating but not necessarily a riveting drama, however what must be much appreciated about this film is the craftsmanship, a visual masterpiece from Larraín coupled with a good script, Levi’s fantastic score and Portman’s performance.
‘Jackie’ gets an 8.3/10.
Shot on 35's Rating Sheet: 9.5 – 10.0: Excellent! 8.5 – 9.5: Fantastic, but with minor flaws 7.5 – 8.5: Great, but with issues 6.5 – 7.5: Okay, but with major issues 5.5 – 6.5: Had potential, but falls flat hard. 4.5 – 5.5: Disaster!