‘Jackie’ offers an enthralling insight into the mind of Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) during the week after her husband (President John F. Kennedy)’s assassination. Via the episodes she details in a journalistic interview, we see her grapple with grief and public perception as she tackles the task of securing her husband’s legacy.
The production design on this film is impeccable; it transports you back to the sixties with a level of detail that makes the experience akin to watching a documentary. In every practical sense, Portman is Jackie.
What struck me most about this film is the absurd situation that Jackie is thrown into. Her purpose has been to serve her husband, she does so as she tries to put his head back together while he’s bleeding to death on her lap; she continues to do so in his death. There aren’t many widows who have to move home within a week of their husband’s passing; whose personal legacy, status and possessions are so deeply tied to their husband’s being; whose daily reality becomes so instantaneously, dramatically changed when their husband dies. These notions are succinctly portrayed on screen as Jackie witnesses her husband’s successor being sworn into the presidency; another woman instantly taking over her public role as First Lady while JFK’s blood is still staining her clothes. Yet Portman manages to make Jackie relatable at every turn. She’s captivating to watch as she spirals into despair while keeping up the strongest of facades in this surely Oscar worthy performance.
The screenplay and direction are clever in the way they jump through time; Jackie in the ‘present’ offers perspective on past flashbacks; the order is somewhat jumbled to great effect. You never quite know where her mind is going next. Oppenheim’s screenplay is deep, complex and intricate; it makes you reflect on the purpose of being – on legacy – it culminates in Jackie having a moving, life-affirming, conversation with a priest as she tries to re-find her faith. It’s a scene that would be highly quotable if I had a decent memory for such things!
Overall, ‘Jackie’ is a fascinating, insightful portrayal of a significant low in US presidential history. Portman is astounding throughout. I give ‘Jackie’ a rating of 4.5/5.