“Jackie” Savannah Film Festival Movie Review
When we first see Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman), she is fiercely walking on the grounds of her home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. We cut to a man getting out of a cab in front of Jackie’s home. Jackie appears at the door but is reluctant to let the man in. It seems that the man is a reporter (Billy Crudup) here to do an interview with Mrs. Kennedy a week after the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy. She grills the reporter, setting up a series of ground rules for the interview before she lets him in.
She finally lets the reporter in, and they sit for the interview. Jackie very defiantly tells the reporter that she knows why he is here, that he wants her to describe the assassination in detail. At that point we flash back to Jackie in the open aired limo just after JFK was shot, the car speeding down the road as Jackie tries to get John to respond to her pleas. We are back to present, and the reporter tells Jackie how much he admired her televised tour of the White House a few years ago, telling her what a magical TV event it was. We flash back to Jackie very nervously rehearsing her opening line with her trusted aide, Nancy (Greta Gerwig). Once they decide what the opening phrase should be the cameras, start rolling, and Jackie is showing the world what she calls “the people’s house.”
“Jackie,” written by Noah Oppenheim and directed by Pablo Larrain moves seamlessly back and forth between the interview with the reporter and two of the most famous and influential events in Jacqueline Kennedy’s early very public life; the 1961 tour of the White House just after she had done a long-overdue renovation of the President’s residence, and the week following the assassination. These two points in time are the exact opposite of one another; in 1961 the U.S. was bright and shiny and in love with the beautiful couple in the White House, in 1963, right after the President was killed, the country was in mourning and worried that the world was out to destroy the U.S. Larrain moves between the time periods, each look back pushes the storyline forward, letting us know and understand Jackie, much more than she ever showed the public. We see her progress as someone in 1961 as a shy woman who was very unsure of herself in the spotlight under the gleaming eye of the TV cameras. While nervous, she is determined to show the U.S. how proud she is to be living in the White House. When we look back at what happened right after the shooting, we see a determined Jackie who wants to make sure her husband is shown the respect and reverence that she feels he deserves. To do that, she is willing to stand up to anyone, whether it’s JFK’s brother, Attorney General Bobby Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard), or the new Chief of Staff for LBJ, Jack Valenti (Max Casella).
The supporting cast in the film is outstanding, especially Greta Gerwig as the First Lady’s personal assistant whose brief appearances on the screen is filled with love and support for the First Lady. Billy Crudup is given the thankless task of the reporter who has to tippy-toe around her feelings while balancing the defiance of a grieving that Jackie is going through. Crudup holds his own with Natalie Portman on camera, giving up the screen to her when it’s needed. Peter Sarsgaard as Bobby Kennedy, never pins down the distinctive Boston accent but nails the man who is trying to hold his family together after his brother’s world has been destroyed. John Hurt, plays the priest who becomes Jackie’s confessor/absolver is perfect in the role.
Make no mistake; this is Natalie Portman’s film, and she handles it with ease. It takes a few minutes into the movie to get used to her talking like Jackie, but once you get used to it, Portman disappears into the role of Jackie. It’s a tough role to tackle because after the assassination; Jackie was all over the place; at times defiant, other times subservient, always demanding that her husband is treated with respect and determined to show the world what horror had happened to him. It’s an amazing performance as Portman turns Jackie’s emotions on and off at a moment’s notice, as one in shock/grieving does. Portman dominates the film and is on the screen in almost every scene. It’s a powerful, masterful, multi-layered performance that is sure to be in the running for an Oscar.
My only problem with this film is it just doesn’t know at what point to end the film. I think the best stopping place would have been the funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, after the funeral procession through the streets that Jackie had fought so hard to put on. Instead, we get a few more starts and stops, all of which feel a little hollow and forced.
Overall, this film works as a study of a person who was larger than life by one of the few actresses who could handle that type of role. You feel after seeing this film that Natalie Portman gave us everything she could give, just like the woman she portrayed did for this country. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
For more information about the Savannah Film Festival, go to www.filmfest.scad.edu
For more of Mike’s reviews and interviews click here