Saturday, December 17

REVIEW: Jackie

Directed by Pablo Larrain
2016 Biography
1 hour 40 minutes
From Fox Searchlight

Natalie Portman
Peter Sarsgaard
Billy Crudup
Greta Gerwig
Caspar Phillipson
Richard E. Grant
John Hurt

The period in Jacqueline Kennedy's life from the time of her husband's assassination to the funeral marked an epoch in her life and in many respects the country's, too.  It was a desultory time for her as she tried to make sense of it all, comfort her children, move out of the White House and decide if she will walk or ride in the funeral procession and where exactly he will be buried.  The story is told as she later explains it and more to an anonymous reporter (in real life it was Theodore H. White, whom she'd commissioned to write a piece for Life Magazine) who has come to Hyannis Port to interview her.

It was difficult for me to get as wrapped up in the film as I might have liked for a couple of reasons.  One, I'm afraid, is that the last two movies I have seen and reviewed here are my favorites this year so, of course, the first one to not measure up is bound to be a letdown at some level. Secondly, behind me is an entire shelf of books I have read on Jackie and the Kennedy family and I learned nothing new in this film, at least nothing that occurs to me at the moment.  I do suspect there's apocryphal information in the screenplay because we probably don't know much more about her in those few days except that she spent them in private and cried a lot.

She was an arcane person and the film has done little to open up new territory although for some it may come as a surprise that she smoked as much as she did.  I found little reason for continually returning to her White House tour in 1962 except that may be one of the few times in the film that we actually know what she said. There was a fascinating chat she had with a priest toward the end of the film but did that really happen and if so, how would we know what they discussed?

I would have preferred this entire screenplay outlining those few days in just a couple of scenes.  How much more interesting it would have been to have gotten a wider look at her life.  What about her often cold relationship with the president, how his family treated her, the real truth of her relationship with Bobby Kennedy and the period of time, just before Onassis, when she fell out with the American people and feared for the safety of her children? Now that would have been more fascinating than these 100 funereal minutes.    

Without question on the up side is the beguiling performance of the leading lady.  I have not always been enthused about Portman's acting because I have often caught her doing it which I've never care for in any actor.  But here she embodies Jackie and I regard her performance as the best reason to see the film.  And luckily, an actress knows she will get to look good, dress well, if playing Jackie.  She doubtlessly enjoyed filming so many scenes in front of mirrors. Perhaps that was partly done to bring attention to Jackie's duplicitous nature... the public and the private, the graciousness and the remoteness, the steel magnolia.

Peter Sarsgaard portayed Bobby in an awfully passive manner. Was RFK ever passive, even in those days?  Caspar Phillipson looked almost like JFK had come back to life.  What an uncanny resemblance.

The attention to detail seemed right-on to me except the blood on her pink suit was just on the top in one scene and on the bottom in another.  Continuity must have had the day off.  Hey, I barely noticed.  And that theme music... really?  Why so draconian?

The film's lack of warmth is why.... well, hey, it's why I didn't warm to it so much.  You warm me... I warm you back.  Ok, I know it was a terrible time... I was around... but couldn't there have been a fuzzy scene with someone even once?  Not even Jackie greeting her children to tell them of the tragic news?  If she needed to be stoic, if that's what the writers wanted to show, then give the warmth to someone else.  I felt none. 

I read a few days ago that Jackie's sister, Lee Radziwill, has come out against the movie but one wonders why.  Is it because she's still tired of being upstaged by her older sister or because she thinks the past should be left there or because there are untruths in the screenplay or is it something else?

It had the earmarkings of a good TV movie but from my pov, Portman being attached to it got it elevated to the big screen.

Next posting:
a good 40s film

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