Jackie has an award worthy performance from Natalie Portman and a truly haunting score but it’s a series of well done events that doesn’t form a cohesive whole.
Director: Pablo Larraín
Summary: 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.
The assassination of John F Kennedy is an event much like 9/11 is to my generation: you know exactly where you were and what you were doing when you found out. The assassination itself has been portrayed and looked over by many different people but everyone seems to forget that Jackie Kennedy was right next to her husband when he was shot. That kind of event changes a person and Jackie appears to be one of the first movies to really look at the event from her perspective. The way it is told, as if she is being interviewed, means that the movie is more of a series of anecdotes rather than a story with a beginning, middle, and end. That doesn’t mean that these anecdotes aren’t interesting or not well told but it does mean the movie never really comes together.
The film focuses mostly on the events of the assassination and the various events that followed afterwards. We get some really raw moments such as Jackie (Natalie Portman) standing in front of a mirror on Air Force One wiping blood from her face. She describes in detail what it was like to hold the pieces of her husband’s head together and, when the movie does show the actual assassination, it is recreated in such horrible detail that it’s enough to make you sick. Portman sells the hell out of the role and she looks so much like Mrs. Kennedy that it is almost weird. There is a fantastic line where she says, along the lines, “I never wanted to be famous and then I became a Kennedy.” It shows as she grapples with the funeral and how she realizes that it is less about him and more about her.
The score by Mica Levi is probably the highlight of the entire movie. The best way I can describe it is it’s like something out of a horror movie. It brings an excellent mood to the movie that you aren’t expecting. It makes the moments even harder to swallow as we watch a woman break down in front of our eyes. All of these great things and the way the movie is told, through these anecdotes, means that there isn’t much in the way of a narrative through line. The movie bounces between the before, the during, and the after. While it means that we’re watching something that feels very much like someone recounting their memories as a movie framing device it means nothing really connects properly.
Jackie is a movie where Natalie Portman absolutely deserves all of the praise she is getting for the role. She is likely going to win but the real strength of the film comes from the score and the detail to historical events. It’s just a shame that it’s a bunch of well-made shorts instead of one amazing feature