I’m British, & while we’re taught that a few US Presidents were assassinated we aren’t really told more than that. Everything I know about JFK is what I’ve seen in films; most memorably James Marsden in The Butler. I know very little about America’s 35th President other than the basic facts.
And I knew even littler about his wife, Jackie – the most I knew about her was through Andy Warhol’s depictions of her & Lana Del Rey reciting her letter about her husband in the music video for her song National Anthem.
I did know that she must have been an incredibly strong woman – to have her husband murdered in her arms so very publicly is a horrifying thought.
I saw this film quite late into the game but it was truly like nothing else I’d ever seen before.
Natalie Portman is astonishing, nothing short of it. She is eerily accurate as the former First Lady, capturing every part of her personality and really showcasing all different sides to her. She does so well that though you know you watching Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman, it’s impossible to not see Jackie in front of you. With the costume, the way she holds herself & especially her voice, it’s scarily powerful. I think this is Portman at her absolute best.
Pablo Larraín is a director I long to see more of. He is so unique in his work & it works gorgeously – & I think it worked to have a non-American directing it, as an onlooker to the story. We all know America is very patriotic, which is by no means a bad thing & instead quite admirable but it also means stories like this have a tendency to be portrayed through a rose tinted lense. Larraín’s film is respectful yet in a way that doesn’t sugar coat the truth, & you admire this woman even more so by the end.
Producer Scott Frankling says it best:
“We wanted to be true to the events yet also sensitive. Kennedy’s death was truly violent and grisly, but I think Pablo did a great job of walking the line. He recreates it in a way that is almost lyrical and very respectful.”
The cinematography is gorgeous – blunt, long & focused shots on the titular character are common & make you feel almost uncomfortable watching that long. Seeing her face & her emotions will stay in your mind for years to come, but the most powerful shot of all comes from a Birdseye view of Jackie cradling her dead husband in her lap in the back of the car spreading away with security & her white gloved hands desperately trying to keep his brains inside his skull. It is gruesome & shocking & terrible & perfect – it’s the truth. And that image will never leave your mind.
It was nominated for three Academy Awards, each of which would well have deserved to win; Best Actress; Best Achievement in Costume Design & Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score).
The costume design by Madeline Fontaine really is gorgeous. It features all the iconic outfits even I know Jackie wore, & when worn by Natalie Portman it is near impossible to not only see Jackie. But Fontaine makes them feel tangible, lived in & scarily real – the iconic blood stained skirt suit is forever changed in my mind now I’ve seen Natalie walking around for 24 hours in it.
The score is unreal. I’m not just using that word as a simile for ‘really good’ – I mean literally unreal & other worldly. It is haunting & moving & emotional & painful. It is the absolute encapsulation of the reeling shock of grief Jackie experienced & it is beautifully executed – Mica Levi is truly unreal.
This is truly a biopic to remember. It’s a powerful & real tribute to a woman full of strength in a time of tragedy & I have never experienced anything like it before.
Jackie changed my opinion about the woman herself. I only knew her as an image, a face that represented a historic event. But this film has enlightened me into the woman she actually was, & I am eternally in awe of her now.
Jackie is released on DVD & Blu-ray in the U.K. today on what have been John F. Kennedy’s 100th birthday.