Jackie follows Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman, the wife of the John F. Kennedy the President who was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963. The film follows Jackie in the moments before and after the assassination as she tries to cope with her crippling grief.
History is cruel is a line from spoken by Robert Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard) to Jackie Kennedy regarding the legacy that his recently assassinated brother will leave behind. It’s certainly true that events such the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963 certainly receives emotionally cold treatment from history as it focuses more about the political fallout rather than the emotional fallout. Pablo Larraín’s recent film goes a long way in showing the emotional impact of the assassination on Jackie. Jackie is often thought of as a style icon, a wife but she is a real woman who bravely and determinedly managed the grief of losing her husband in such brutal way in full view of the public, both national and international.
Noah Oppenheim’s script places a lot of emphasis on Jackie and the way she has to deal with the sorrow of losing her husband but also having to manage all of the political and media commitments that come with being the wife of the president of the most influential and important country in the world. It’s a brilliant script that emphasises Jackie’s fragmented state of mind that causes her to be indecisive to whether she should show her heartache publicly, thus showing the nation that her sense of loss is matched by the nation’s, or keep her greif private.
When it comes to biopics an imitation of the subject is all well and good, but more is required. Portman does a good job at capturing Jackie’s husky, whispery vocals and mannerisms, but there’s so more to a performance of a real person than just imitating their mannerisms. Portman’s performance is a highly emotional one as she captures Jackie’s distraught sense of loss and genuine shock. Jackie has to manage the very public following of her grief, and has to decide whether to follow the protocol and give her husband a proper send off or deal with hergrief privately.
It’s obviously an almost unimaginable situation to be in with the entire world’s media following the story, and it becomes an intense struggle for Jackie. There are scenes that leave a strong impact in which Jackie is still wandering around the house, in that iconic pink jacket, with her husband’s blood still staining the jacket with a noticeable crimson colour. The film does linger on this, making it quite apparent that her iconic jacket is stained with blood, highlighting the shock she must feel as she has yet to remove the clothing still stained by her husband’s blood.
The film is well edited and pieced together, seamlessly gelling the different time periods together (as well as archival footage) as the film flicks between the Life magazine interview and the moments leading up and after the assassination without feeling disjointed. The cinematography, as it follows Jackie through the immaculately designed Whitehouse, is greatly reminiscent to the tracking camera sequences following the various characters walking around the Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.
Mica Levi’s widely praised (and Oscar nominated) score certainly makes an impact with its haunting use of Cellos and violins to portray as a massive sense of loss and devastation, and the sudden brutality of the assassination sequence itself comes at such a shock it has a strong, lingering impact even if the scene is mercifully short.