By: Blake Edgington, Movie Critic
Director: Pablo Larraín
Cast: Natalie Portman, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, John Hurt, Peter Sarsgaard
Review: 4 bags
If anything, our American History has taught us that we can find heroes and patriots in any circumstance. Perhaps, to an extent, we even embellish stories to highlight the more heroic qualities while overlooking the more melancholic parts.
For America, 1963 was a trying year. The details of what history has chosen to remember or ignore fall prey to extra-narratives offered up by artistic historians looking to cash in. If it produces American pride, and warm fuzzy feelings, we tend to believe it.
The truth is more like looking in a mirror at 3 am and we don’t want that. We embrace the positive narrative as long as the fairy tale continues, but sometimes for the characters in the story, there is no fairy tale ending.
In Pablo Larraín’s Jackie, Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman) proves to be fully aware of America’s tendencies to alter historic moments when she alerts a journalist that she will be editing his story before America reads it. Said Journalist (Billy Crudup) barely raises an objection to Jackie’s insinuation and instead yields to her version of events willingly. If somehow along the way, he arrives at the truth, it will be for his own consumption.
In the days following the assassination of John F. Kennedy (Caspar Phillipson), the audience is allowed to witness the motivations behind Jackie’s need to preserve her husband’s legacy in recorded history. At the same time, the audience is drawn into the secret moments of a mother, wife, and First Lady as she struggles with her own emotional needs. In the background, looms the emotional needs of a country, which now looks to her for a proper measure of grief in the wake of tragedy and conspiracy theories.
Portman play a spectacular and piercing in-the-moment Jackie. She not only exudes the First Lady’s poise quiet demeanor and barely held-in-check nervousness; she embodies the emotional complexity of a deeply grieving woman with her best moments being in absolute silence. Definitely, Portman’s most memorable and Oscar-worthy role.
Bobby Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard), JFK’s younger brother, is really the only other person who can somewhat empathize with Jackie. She is mourning a husband and father; Bobby is mourning the loss of a brother. But casting missed the mark on this one. Sarsgaard does not resemble Bobby Kennedy physically and his performance lacks the haunting feeling losing a brother so tragically should have.
But America loves our narratives. Just ask FOX News, CNN, or MSNBC. Narratives, whether true or false, force us to choose a side…to think a certain way. Jackie reminds the audience that we will always entertain the narrative regardless of its veracity. Lest we forget that at the center of this story, there is a grieving widow, struggling to find her place in the world again. Through all the tragedy and chaos Larrain manages to show humanity in the pageantry, as well as empathy for those whom history has chosen to live in the public eye. There is a tangible elegance, grace, and sorrow to Jackie which altogether make it a rich and worthwhile cinematic experience.