Jackie full movie review - "Jackie" rises on Portman's performance, but stumbles over some of the filmmakers' decisions.
Jacqueline Bouvier. Jackie Kennedy. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Jackie O. Jackie. There are many ways to refer to this singularly iconic woman ? and many ways to remember her. That breathy voice.
That educated and sophisticated demeanor. Her sense of style? including that pink suit, later tragically stained with the blood of a slain president, husband and father. And, of course, her extraordinary poise and grace in the wake of President Kennedy's assassination. Her public image and the sights and sounds that surrounded her are indelible for so many Americans ? and people all around the world ? but how much do we really know about her as a person? How much do we really understand? Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis was a very public person, with a very private sensibility, best known for being at the center of one of the most traumatic moments in American history. "Jackie" (R, 1:40), directed by Pablo Larrain, written by Noah Oppenheim and starring Oscar-winner Natalie Portman as the title character do their best to help us peak behind the curtain and learn more about the woman behind that famous face.
"Life" Magazine writer Theodore H. White (Billy Crudup) arrives at the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts for his appointment to interview Jackie Kennedy, one of the most famous women in the world. Just one week after her husband's assassination, Mrs. Kennedy, who invited the Pulitzer Prize winner to do this interview, is already very concerned that her husband may be forgotten ? or misunderstood by history. White, who is deferential, but firm and professional, finds a woman who is clearly still grieving her horrible loss, but who is also very much in control of herself ? and very much in control regarding her husband's legacy ? even to the point of editing White's notes during the interview.
While returning periodically to the scenes of the interview, most of Jackie's story is told in flashback scenes of her as First Lady ? especially on that fateful day in November of 1963 ? and the four days that followed. We get a sense of who she was as First Lady from a look at the filming (no, not taping ? not in 1962) of Jackie Kennedy's famous televised tour of the White House, during which she showed and discussed her historic and artistic changes to "The People's House", as she calls it, while she receives help and support from her close aide, Nancy Tuckerman (Greta Gerwig). But most of "Jackie" revolves around the assassination, its immediate aftermath and the funeral preparations.
In spite of being traumatized by the shooting, Jackie "keeps it together" as well as anyone in those circumstances could, cradling her husband's fatally-wounded head in her lap on the way to the hospital and desperately hoping that he might survive, dutifully standing with the new First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson (Beth Grant), beside Vice President Lyndon Johnson (John Carroll Lynch), as he takes the oath of office and becomes President of the United States, and then, after sitting motionless beside her husband's casket during the flight back to Washington, D.C., refusing to change her blood-stained suit before exiting the plane and being photographed by the press, "so they can see what they did to Jack".
While caring for her children and making plans for their future, Jackie becomes intimately involved with the planning of her husband's funeral. President Johnson and his new administration, including Special Assistant Jack Valenti (Max Casella), respectfully defer to Jackie's wishes regarding every detail, even when she changes her mind. She uses the funeral of Abraham Lincoln as a template for her plans, including insisting on an open procession through the streets of Washington, in spite of the well-founded security concerns that are raised. Alternately sharing their grief and having stress-fueled clashes, Jackie and her brother-in-law, Robert F. Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard) work together on these plans, including choosing JFK's grave site in Arlington National Cemetery. As much as we learn about Jackie from watching her during those four days in November, we gain even more insight into her private thoughts during scenes of a conversation with an elderly priest (John Hurt) at the cemetery.
"Jackie" is fascinating and compelling, but includes elements which damage its overall quality. The script and direction shed a lot of light on what happened (and might have happened) during the private moments of this very public national nightmare, while painting a very personal portrait of Jackie Kennedy, but the editing harms the film's potential effectiveness. The chronology of events, while not very difficult to follow, simply jumps around too much, and the choices of which bits of archival footage to use and where to use them, distracts from and even contradicts the film's own cinematography. Meanwhile, the score is overwhelming and unnecessarily melodramatic.
The primary strength of this film is Portman, who nails Jackie Kennedy's voice and mannerisms, while infusing her with a complex combination of vulnerability, tenacity and grace under pressure. Some of the other casting is shaky. Two of the major players in this historical drama, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and President Lyndon Johnson, are played by actors who look virtually nothing like the real-life men, and make little attempt to act or even sound like them. Fortunately, strong supporting turns by Casella, Hurt, Gerwig and Richard E. Grant (as chairman of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts) pick up the slack. Overall, "Jackie" is a valuable and satisfying addition to the long list of cinematic portrayals of the Kennedy family and their tragic, but resilient history. Movie Fans will likely end this film feeling they know and understand more about the Kennedy assassination, its impact on the country and, most importantly, the woman most affected by it all: Jackie. "B+"