16 January 2017


The backstory of the winding road to the production of Jackie is worth the read. Directed by Chilean Pablo Larrain, who had never done a biopic, filmed largely in Paris, and starring Natalie Portman instead of the originally cast Rachel Weisz, this film is a fascinating personal closeup of a significant moment in American history. More to the point, Jackie is an engaging and sometimes powerful film. Portman's hard work on the clipped, boarding school accent of Jacqueline Bouvier paid off. Whether recreating Jackie's CBS special on her refurbishing of the White House or chain smoking as she plays with "the reporter" (Billy Crudup playing Theodore White), Portman deserved an Oscar nomination as best actress.

Jackie is principally set during her interview with White with regular flashbacks to the fateful day in Dallas and the subsequent turbulent ones leading up to JFK's funeral. There are appropriately understated references to JFK's notable peccadillos. I learned a great deal about the planning of the funeral and especially Jackie's indomitable will that the funeral be an homage to the late president, filled with historical significance, and framed with her aesthetic eye.

The final point--Jackie's acute aesthetic judgment--provides a constant and subtle subtext for the film. Jackie was not merely stylish or simply a purchaser of haute couture. She was an understanding patron of the arts who set her own dying days in an aesthetic framework.

Jackie is not a great film but is a competent study of real but inconsistent human strength set in a period of American history that, because so much of it was televised, continues to cast a long shadow in American political life. We enjoyed it and recommend it.

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