I’ve always had a huge interest in history, and remember being so enamored with learning about American history. One of the events that has always captivated me was the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and all the circumstances surrounding the event. I always try to watch whatever I can related to JFK and the Kennedy’s. As soon as I saw the trailer for this film and heard Natalie Portman would be portraying the lead, I had a great interest to see it. I love Natalie Portman and always will try to see whatever she is in. I enjoyed hearing how she was garnering Oscar buzz and had to see the performance myself.
Having seen bits and bobs of Jackie Kennedy giving the White House tour, I’d say Portman does quite a good job and portraying Jackie’s accent and the way that she speaks. I’m pretty sure she did her homework and it showed, as at times she just disappears into the role. I’ve seen most of the Oscar nominated films of the year and I’d say Portman may be very close to a lock for her second Oscar. What I really liked about the film is that its scope is limited to just a few days after the death of JFK. Thus you get to view Jackie at her most pained and vulnerable. Once again, I think Portman’s portrayal makes the film. As Jackie walks around aimlessly in the halls of the White House you can she how disheveled and exposed she is (although she still must maintain appearances).
The first thing you will notice about the film is the score, which opens the film. Its hard to describe, but the score is a mix of dissonance and something of harmony. Its almost like an instrument trying to play a cheerful tune despite being broken, and its really powerful. Its a truly wonderful and pained score. The films narrative is interjected with events of the assassination, Jackie’s White house tour, the events after the assassination and her transition out of the White House, and the interview by Theodore H. White. I didn’t care how or when it was done but I thought it was vital to show the shooting and the events with JFK on Jackie’s lap while the car was rushing away. I’m happy to say Pablo Larrain does not shy away from this event and its shown in its brutality (which is necessary).
There’s a lack of things going on as the film has a limited time frame but the intention is to place the microscope on one of the most beloved figures in American history during the toughest transition of her life. It feels like a whirlwind at times because you get to see Jackie’s life as the first lady and how quickly things changed and how her life turns upside down. I thought Peter Sarsgaard had the look of Bobby Kennedy but not really the speech or mannerisms. I thought Barry Pepper was great at Bobby in that Kennedy miniseries and I was hoping for something of that sort. Had no idea it was Greta Gerwig portraying Nancy Tuckerman until after googling the films cast. Caspar Phillipson looked a lot like JFK in the doses that we seem him.
I’m quite pleased that a film about Jackie Kennedy was made, its a biopic I can get behind, especially with an actress like Portman at the helm. I don’t think the film is perfect but it gets key elements right. It was vital to portray Jackie faithfully, show the events of the motorcade, and portray Jackie’s vulnerability. The film succeeds on those fronts. In the film, Jackie wonders what JFK’s short legacy as President would be remembered as and tries to remind everyone that for a brief moment “it was Camelot”. Its important to see the positives in one of the ugliest events of American history. The film has to go through a lot of sad and ugly moments but is balanced by the grace of Portman’s Jackie.