If you lived through this era director Pablo Larrain’s (The Club) film is pretty much a must watch. Though it is a rather stylized depiction of the time right after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and how his widow Jackie (Natalie Portman – Black Swan, Thor: The Dark World); it is riveting. It is human nature to want to know what went on behind the scenes especially during and in the aftermath of such huge occurrences. It is through films like this that we are able to get some insight into what iconic figures like Jackie Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard – The Magnificent Seven – 2016, An Education) were thinking and feeling.
Shortly after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (Caspar Phillipson – Antboy) his widow Jackie (Natalie Portman) was interviewed by a journalist (Billy Crudup – Almost Famous, Watchmen) from Life magazine. That interview was instantaneously devoured by the American public and became an iconic portrait of the former First Lady.
The journalist arrives at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port shortly after Kennedy’s funeral and interviews Jackie for what will be her first public comments about the assassination. Her reserve and composure after the horrific death of her husband was a model for Americans and they used it as inspiration to get through the tough time in their history.
This is not your prototypical biopic in that Larrain has not constructed it in your usual way. Most biopics depict their subjects as being akin to gods or perfect beings. Jackie is not like that in that all her warts and flaws are on display. She is self absorbed, insecure and even haughty at times. This is a moving psychological portrait of a woman involved in one of the more marking events to ever occur to the American people.
Most of the film has to deal with the time immediately after the assassination. You do get the feeling that it is here that the whole idea of Kennedy’s time as President being compared to Camelot was cemented during this time. Reinforced by Jackie.
It is in no way a perfect film. Yes, there are artistic liberties that happen, but you leave watching the film with the feeling like you have just witnessed a behind the scenes view of history. Yes, it is slow in patches, but for me that reinforces the whole realistic feel gone for.
The fantastic performance by Natalie Portman is the centre of the film. You feel she is Jackie. Amazing considering she looks nothing like her. But the perfection of the accent and timbre of the voice and the way Jackie carried herself goes a long way. The U.S.’s 45th First Lady appears to be right in front of us. Despite all the strength Jackie had at the time you still end up feeling sorry for her. That is due to the humanity behind the composed facade that Portman instills in Jackie. There are many juxtapositions within the woman that are laid bare by the performance. You see the strength she possessed existing alongside the insecurity. It is a nuanced performance in which Portman does not allow the First Lady to become a caricature.
-From Jackie to Camelot