In the days immediately following her husband’s death, Jackie Kennedy forged a powerful legacy; she created a sense of historic royalty for a presidency that had been critiqued as indulgent and flawed. This is her story; and it is a tale not just of her own harrowing ordeal, but of the media driven mythology that shaped (and continues to shape) modern America.
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A week after her husband, President John F Kennedy, was assassinated in Dallas, Jackie Kennedy (played by Natalie Portman) gives a detailed interview—which provides the narrative lens for this gripping biopic.
The full extent of this interview has only recently become known, as she meticulously controlled the image and the quotes allowed to be printed. What was included and excluded from the interview at the time reveals so much, as we finally learn of the complex and remarkable woman behind the iconic wool suits and pill box hats.
According to Jackie, the narrative of Camelot and the very regal way in which the Kennedys are remembered today, was a myth built in the days following JFK’s death. From a Presidency marked by extravagant spending, lavish White House parties, largely ineffective policies and JFK’s affair with Hollywood siren Marilyn Monroe, through Jackie Kennedy’s stalwart refusal to hide or break down in the days following her husband’s murder, a nation was moved.
Hours after he was shot next to her, Jackie Kennedy stood in a bloodstained dress as the new President was sworn in. Despite her husband’s assassination, and his alleged killer also being fatally shot to death, all America witnessed was a woman who was not going to live in fear as she walked her young children by their father’s coffin and marched openly through the streets of Washington DC to his grave. It was powerful.
Her unwavering class and her poise under what would have been unimaginably traumatic circumstances shaped her husband’s memory and elevated her to an icon. The way the film tells her story, combined with an exceptional performance by Natalie Portman, stirs deep emotions.
To take on such a well-known and revered figure and to reveal so much that was hereto unknown, is greatly satisfying. Portman’s performance will almost certainly see her add another Oscar to her shelf, and the direction of Pablo Larraín handles the material brilliantly.
Not your typical biopic, Jackie is an extraordinary exploration of a complex woman navigating her loss, her children’s grief and a nation through an unprecedented political and personal tragedy. Don’t miss it.
Director: Pablo Larraín
Stars: Natalie Portman, Billy Crudup, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig
Runtime: 100 mins
Release Date: January 12
Reviewer Rating: 5/5