Jackie (2016)

Synopsis: Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy fights through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children, and define her husband’s historic legacy.

For more info and to watch the trailer, click here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1619029/

Who chose it: Leah

Why I chose it: I’m a sucker for a good biopic and Jackie Kennedy has always fascinated me. I had also heard Natalie Portman’s performance in the film was both authentic and masterful.

Leah’s Review:

“I’ve read a great deal. More than people realize. The more I read, the more I wonder: When something is written down, does that make it true? We have television now. Now people can see with their own eyes.” – Jacqueline Kennedy, Jackie

One of my favorite genres of film is historical biopics. I never really enjoyed history in school- but there’s something about the way film can take a historical event or person that might be uninteresting in a textbook and make it come alive on the screen. I often find myself doing extra research on the subject after watching because of how riveting the film was.

That being said, I was looking forward to watching 2016’s “Jackie”. I’ve always found Jackie Kennedy to be fascinating- both as a style icon and as the tragically beautiful widow of America’s 35th President. I expected this film to encompass her entire life. Instead, the film focuses on the week following John F. Kennedy’s assassination and how his wife dealt with the unexpected tragedy.

I can’t talk about “Jackie” without mentioning it’s lead actor, Natalie Portman. Portman’s performance of Mrs. Kennedy is perfection. She completely captures Jackie’s soft, wispy voice, unique accent, and manner of speaking. Portman puts so much into this performance that you completely forget you are watching her and not the real Mrs. Kennedy. Add the iconic shift dresses and haircut, and the transformation is complete. It’s fair to say that Portman was robbed of the Best Actress Oscar she was nominated for.

What I appreciated about “Jackie” is how it attempts to shed light on its mysterious subject. Jackie was known for her fashion, but she was also responsible for restoring much of the interior of the White House- redecorating and purchasing historical artifacts for the home to give it a sense of its past. Jackie loved history and was very knowledgeable about the history of the White House. Feeling passionately that the nation should be able to see the home’s historical significance- she only used private funding to make improvements to the White House.

“Jackie” also does a great job of showing the emotional devastation of Jackie’s loss of her husband and essentially her life as the First Lady. Portman’s character states: “I never wanted fame. I just became a Kennedy.” From scrutiny for how she used money to her husband’s affairs- we see the effects that being in the spotlight had on her. Jackie grieves the loss of Jack, but also harbours resentment towards him. She is nevertheless determined that her husband be remembered for the great president that he was. His legacy and the legacy of the Kennedy’s becomes her new preservation effort- and she’ll do whatever is necessary to ensure the world takes notice of what they accomplished.

Despite critics’ complaints that “Jackie” isn’t “historically accurate”, I can’t help but recommend this film. It’s engrossing as it is artistic and provides viewers with a new perspective of one of America’s most famous First Ladies.

Brent’s Review:

When I think about excellent acting performances, I’m thinking of particular traits of a performance. I’m certainly looking for emotional depth and range. I’m also looking at good delivery on well-written lines and with a vibrant, energetic screen presence. However, the acting performances I enjoy the most are those that are truly transformational. In these performances, the characters are so powerfully embodied by the performer that they seem to disappear completely. Natalie Portman’s turn as Jackie Kennedy in “Jackie” is the first performance since Heath Ledger’s Joker in “The Dark Knight” that I can recall an actor disappearing so completely into a role.

Portman doesn’t just play dress-up and mimic Jackie’s voice – she becomes Jackie Kennedy.

“Jackie” diverts from a typical biopic formula by resisting the temptation to make her entire life a coherent narrative that builds to her present moment. It doesn’t try to offer explanations or rationale for why she behaves the way she does. Instead, we get to see Jackie Kennedy at the crisis moment of her life: after two failed pregnancies, Jackie holds her dead husband’s head in her lap as they speed down the highway moments after an assassination.

The narrative hops in and out of several timelines to tell the story. Moving chronologically, they are: Jackie’s CBS interview tour of the White House, various moments of Jackie in the White House prior to JFK’s assassination, the day of the assassination, the days leading up to the funeral processional, the day that Jackie memorializes her children, and an interview with a journalist years later. This is a daring strategy in handling one of the most mysterious figures in U.S. history: we don’t try to “solve” Jackie, we just watch how she acts.

I’ve read that this film isn’t historically accurate, but given that I care very little about the importance of the “Kennedy legacy” and am more interested in the idea of it, I found it to be a fascinating story told well. I’m not surprised it didn’t receive a Best Picture nomination, but I will go on record saying that Portman was snubbed for leading actress (sorry Emma Stone – I loved “La La Land” and you were great… but Portman was impeccable).

The rest of the cast is played superbly by veteran character actors John Hurt, Billy Crudup, and John Carroll Lynch. However, the only performance in the film that can even stand up to Portman’s is Peter Sarsgaard’s portrayal of Bobby Kennedy. Despite not really looking the part, Sarsgaard effortlessly acts all of his co-stars under the table with only one (obvious) exception.

So what, finally, can be said about a film that critics loved, but had a mixed reception from film-goers? Pablo Larraín dared to do something different with Noah Oppenheim’s once-blacklisted screenplay. I thought it worked; others didn’t. Even still, anyone who is remotely interested in 1) Jackie Kennedy, 2) superior acting, or 3) films with excellent costume design would do themselves a massive disservice to overlook this film.

Up next: We’re ready to laugh some more with Mel Brooks. This time, we’ll be watching “The Producers” which I am hoping is better than its’ 2005 remake.

Peace out, kids.


2 thoughts on “Jackie (2016)

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