JACKIE Review

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Director: Pablo Larraín

Genre: Drama

Year: 2016

“For one brief, shining moment, there was a Camelot,” says Jackie Kennedy in JACKIE, Pablo Larraín’s searing, bold, and uncomfortably intimate biopic that captures the perspective of American First Lady Jackie Kennedy in the week after the assassination of her husband John F. Kennedy. The Camelot that Jackie longs for is the wonderful world that she and her husband created together as President and First Lady, a kingdom of myth-like proportions with glamour, power, and happiness. When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas after only two years in office, the perfect myth that Jackie had constructed  with him was brought to an abrupt end.

No matter how many times I look in the mirror… I will sadly never be as amazing as Natalie Portman

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We think we know the Kennedys. Gorgeous South Hampton summers. Wealth, beauty , political influence. But underneath the velour of what we idolize is a horrible underbelly of tragedy passed from generation to generation. Larraín beautifully lifts the curtains of a family that America loves and thinks they know.

Theodore H. White (played by Billy Crudup), a political journalist responding to the recent tragedy, opens the film on the steps of the Kennedy’s Hyannis Port Compound. His knocks on the Massachusetts mansion’s front door are soon answered by a surprising sight.

Jackie, the First Lady of the United States, stands before Mr White; bare-face paired with a less-than-formal cream sweater. It has been one week since the assassination of her husband. She is a shell of the person she used to be. Stripped of her trademark glamour and ghostly pale, Jackie is simply a broken woman trying her best to hold onto her dignity. Still spry as ever, she demonstrates an acute media savviness and desire to edit herself throughout the interview. This real-life interview between White and Kennedy is a smart and effective storytelling device that anchors the film as we observe different glimpses of her life shown throughout the interview via flashbacks.

Some of the surprising tea spilled in this film… Jackie got PISSED at Bobby Kennedy

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Natalie Portman, who undertook immense research to play Jackie, is incredible in the lead role. Portman is skillfully able to capture the poise and grace of Jackie, in addition to her extreme vulnerability. There are some absolutely harrowing scenes where Portman fully expresses the depths of Jackie’s sorrow. One standout scene shows Jackie explaining to her children, John and Caroline, that they will never see their father. I was completely taken by the lacerating sorrow of this film, and the intimate moments that showed Jackie at her most private. Every subtle facial movement and furrow of a brow is overflowing with subtext and emotion. Also incredible is the film’s supporting cast that features turns by Peter Sarsgaard, Gretta Gerwig, and John Hurt.

Honestly, Squad Goals

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Larraín’s art-house style of direction seems like an odd choice for a subject as stately and formal as the legacy of John F. Kennedy, but it actually works. The film’s fractured narrative and nonlinear timeline are an interesting reflection of Jackie’s shattered psyche as she comes to terms with her reality and reflects on the life she once had. Jackie’s strength and determination to make sure that her husband is not forgotten is a particularly powerful narrative beat. The large procession for her husband that she fought to make happen was a brave and bold choice that comforted America in an extremely dark time. I thought that the glamorous costuming, dark musical score, and lush sets created an incredible tone and atmosphere. I will not soon forget this film.

Verdict: Recommend

Max Schafnitz

Max is a pop culture addict enabling his addiction with a steady IV drip of movies, television, and music. Don't come for him unless he sends for you.

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