Natalie Portman deserves every honor that comes her way for Jackie.
She takes this complicated part from the mind of director Pablo Larrain and pen of screenwriter Noah Oppenheim and makes sure audiences for sure think yes, that is what we remember of our Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy in this critical time of U.S. history, be it from our history books, our newspaper clips, our TV reels … Our memories. The First Lady’s mannerisms, her dress, her voice and speech patterns and facial look, all down cold, oh, yes.
Chilling, in fact, as Portman pours all of her talents and self into the moments and week after that fateful day in December, 1963 when her husband Jack, our President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated while riding next to her in the motorcade parade in Dallas.
The Chilean director chooses to present this story piecemeal style, eschewing a linear presentation for jumps in time that better allow jarring shots, juxtapositions and judgments as Jackie’s emotions and reactions fly around the human spectrum.
She just lost her husband and the father of her children, not to mention the place where they lived. That point is driven home with the swearing-in of LBJ and the immediate White House presence of Ladybird, picking her decorative touches to replace Jackie’s. Dancing around all that are the notions of what this will mean to the collective political mission of JFK, a point further driven in by the presence of brother-in-law Bobbie, who’s determined to have his say in the family stake.
It’s a mish-mash of feelings, really, and not for the faint of heart. This is not a soft play on a beloved figure.
Pivotal is a black-and-white scene taken from a real-life TV show Jackie hosted, a tour of the White House that demonstrated her attachment to the history of the place and need to place things with people so they are forever celebrated. True, she was, in many forms and ways.
After that, we’re left to wonder how much of this film is based on fact. An interview with a magazine reporter a week after the assassination really happened, but the scene we get is Jackie telling much but demanding final say to shape what is written exactly in her vision, no matter.
And Jackie got what she wanted from that reporter.
And from the White House officials and Bobbie, as we see the funeral procession walking painfully through the streets of Washington, D.C.
Peter Sarsgaard is Kennedy-man solid as RFK, and Billy Crudup pleasingly plays the Time reporter who loves listening to Jackie’s versions of the story. Greta Gerwig also turns in nice moments as Jackie’s top White House aide and what serves as a confidant. But all pale while next to Portman in Larrain’s lens.
As much there was to admire about Portman’s place, other portions of the big picture left me wanting. Did younger brother Teddy play no part in those days? Did Caroline and John Jr. really have so little said to them and have basically no emotional reaction? How dodgy is the line between truth and fiction?
The big crowd for a 2 p.m. Saturday showing at Manlius Art Cinema appeared satisfied with the whole take, – and to at last get the movie in the Syracuse area.
Do you want your bio films to be strictly historical or strictly entertainment or somewhere in between, and why? Would you want the blood and guts of the assassination scene as part of the truth? What is your favorite Natalie Portman scene, and why?