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Jackie (2016) elegantly reshapes American royalty

January 23, 2017
Photo Credit: Jackie / Fox Searchlight Pictures
Ask anyone of the Baby Boomer generation, and chances are they'll recall the day President John F. Kennedy was killed and how the news reverberated around the U.S. Even though history has cemented the family's legacy, as well as Jackie as a style icon, time itself, has rarely scratched the surface of the former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy's experience. That's where the intimate, poignant biopic Jackie steps in.

On November 22nd, 1963, Jack Kennedy and his wife Jackie were on a political tour through Texas when he was violently assassinated. Following Jackie through this horrendous ordeal, arthouse director Pablo Larraín dismisses the blind patriotism many biopics have taken before and dives into a non-traditional portrait of Mrs. Kennedy with a beautiful existential approach to trauma.

Swinging back and forth between the past and present, Jackie (Natalie Portman) dictates her memory of what happened on that fateful day and the immediate aftermath to Life journalist Theodore H. White (Billy Crudup). In giving the epilog of Jack's political career and her transition out of the White House, it reveals her grace under fire as she salvaged the lasting impression of her husband to grieving nation.

When movies recognize Jacqueline, it's often as the great woman behind the man, but rarely does it delve beyond the iconography of the infamous Pink Suit or the unforgettable black veil during her husband's funeral. In sculpting the final hours of his legacy we see the woman both privately and publicly.

In the midst of the tragedy as everyone looking to Jackie, it's difficult to imagine there was a time when the American Public didn't warm up to Jackie. But in the beginning of Jack's political career, her debutante behavior was actually a turn-off because she wasn't in the kitchen. In an eery premonition, her major role as First Lady was restoring the White House as a museum to deceased Presidents; elevating what was a home and workplace for the husband into a showcase of history. In almost an instant, her life becomes a question of preserving her family.

Jackie puts on quite the performance. The woman called to respond to Jack's death in front of the country is different to who she is in private to her staff, the press, Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife, Bobby Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard), and her children. With each approach, she must consider what woman is expected of her as a new administration anxiously takes over, and she moves out of the White House.

All of this revolves around Natalie Portman who gives a demure and chilling performance. It's almost immediately forgotten that she is playing such a familiar figure. Her portrayal of Jackie isn't reserved to just imitating her voice or the physical mannerisms, but a greater reveal of anger, regret, shame, happiness, joy, prideful, and bitter rolling out in waves as the plot gradually builds to the literal shot heard around the world. As everyone around her is numbed into inaction, she's the one who takes the reigns, no matter how much everything weighs on her. Portman captures this essence of feeling like a ghost lingering in history and the classy, regal force that'll be remembered for all-time.

Between Jackie's moments by herself, with her staff, or in front of the nation, it often feels like a barrier is crossed. Her post-traumatic stress and bereavement are brushed in all different strokes of contemplative calm and terror. A cold formality lingers in the aftermath of the fatality with the grand procession and majesty of his burial. The lengths she goes to makes use question if it's for her husband's benefit, quench her own ego, or mourn with the public.

Using original and archived historical footage, as well as a haunting score by Mica Levi, Lorrain's sweeping film is an intimate and haunting biopic. It's not a typical examination of worshiping the Kennedys and recognizes that Jackie in the movie is different to how we see or imagine her as outsiders. Jackie is an ethereal monument to a woman who shaped American royalty.

RATING: ★★★
Have you seen Jackie? What are your thoughts?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Mariah! I'll definitely be emailing soon and hope everything is going great for you and your family. I hope you get the chance to see Jackie - it's wonderful.

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