Thursday, March 2, 2017

Films of 2016: "Jackie"


Jackie is very unconventional and experimental in its filmmaking approach. The score, for one, is very unexpected; perhaps a bit much. But maybe that's the point, since the film as a whole is, perhaps, a meditative experience. It's a complex and vivid portrait (as well as dramatization) of an iconic figure in the wake of a nationwide tragedy and the transition into a new chapter in American history.

Set during the week in the life of Jacqueline Kennedy (played radiantly by Natalie Portman), the film chronicles the week following the shocking assassination of her husband, John F. Kennedy, in 1963.
The interview Kennedy gave in Massachusetts apparently showcased not only the way others would perceive the aforementioned events, including what had happened in greater detail, but also an examination of the legacy she had hoped to leave for her husband and for herself. "How would you like him to be remembered, Mrs. Kennedy," the reporter asks.

The mythology and poetry of "Camelot" (not to mention the stage musical) came to represent the legacy of the Kennedys, whether as thematic parallels or as story elements. The same could be said for Mrs. Kennedy's wardrobe throughout the story, representing theatrical and societal fashion, scene changes, and character changes, as she was, in a sense, a storyteller. (Her famous "Tour of the White House," recreated shot-for-shot as vintage 1960s footage, can attest to that.) As the stage production's closing lyrics state, "Don't let it ever be forgot / That once there was a spot / For one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot."


Portman does a brilliant job illuminating Jackie's complex emotions, from the way she explains her husband's death to her children, to the references she makes to Abraham Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address, to the conversations she has with the priest (John Hurt, in what became his final film role), to how she handles everything else the week after the assassination. "People need to know that real men lived her, not stories and legends," she tells us. Her point of view (or at least Portman's portrayal) gives us a glimpse of the grief and sorrows she went through not just as the former First Lady, but as a human being, and the effect (and hope) it will have on future generations. In the words of the reporter (Billy Crudup), "You left your mark on this country these last few days, Mrs. Kennedy. That's the story." She agrees on the ideals and progress that will potentially be made. However, recalling her and her husband's mark on history, "there will never be another Camelot."

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