December 14, 2016

Jackie: Portman Portrays Jackie Kennedy in Portrait of Iconic First Lady

How did Jackie Kennedy feel after her husband’s assassination in Dallas on November 22, 1963? That is the question explored in Jackie, a movie that paints a portrait of Camelot’s First Lady by speculating about her mental state during the days immediately following the assassination of JFK (Caspar Phillipson).

Directed by Pablo Larrain (Neruda), Jackie stars Academy Award winner Natalie Portman (Black Swan) in the title role. Portman is likely to receive another Oscar nomination for her convincing impersonation of the legendary First Lady. She manages to replicate the Jackie Kennedy iconography, such as the whispery voice and the pillbox hats, and plumbs the depths of her soul.

As a result, we get a sense of her internal angst in a variety of situations, such as when she had to break the news of their father’s death to Caroline (Sunnie Pelant) and John-John (Aiden and Brody Weinberg). Or when she was rushed out of the White House by incoming Lady Bird Johnson (Beth Grant), who was already thinking about replacing the drapes before JFK had been buried.

Fortunately, Jackie did have someone to depend upon on in her hour of need. It was not her brother-in-law Bobby (Peter Sarsgaard) who thought of her as a “silly, little debutante,” but the Catholic priest (John Hurt) who was her confidant and confessor. He helped Jackie summon the strength and courage to accompany her husband’s casket on foot in the funeral procession down Pennsylvania Avenue, despite fears of a copycat assassin.

Her faith faltering, Jackie admitted that, “I think God is cruel.” She even wondered aloud whether she might have been better off marrying “an ordinary, lazy, ugly man.” And while Jackie desperately grasps at straws to make sense of her unspeakable nightmare, the only comforting words her supportive cleric can find are “There are no answers in man’s search for meaning.”

The movie is a bittersweet documentary drama that echoes the lyrics from the classic show tune Jackie identified as JFK’s favorite: “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.”

Excellent (****). Rated R for profanity and brief graphic violence. Running time: 99 minutes. Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures.