19 December 2016

Review: Jackie

Unlike traditional biopics, 'Jackie' is structured like a fever dream where the highs and lows are her time as First Lady are stacked unevenly, spilling into each other in the blink of an eye. Natalie Portman embodies the traumatic experience of living through one of life's most unimaginable horrors but finds she must still perform for the American people and press, who are dissecting her every move, looking for a flaw. Pablo Larraín, writer Noah Oppenheim, and Portman take Jackie, known for her extraordinary dignity and poise, and break her down psychologically. Revealing the mother simultaneously trying to console her children and a nation in the days following Kennedy's assassination in Dallas, Texas.

She must also massage the egos of Lyndon B. Johnson (John Carroll Lynch), eager to start his own legacy, and Robert (Peter Sarsgaard), who frets over the legacy of his departed brother. Returning President Kennedy's body to the White House, Jackie knocks on the window to ask the driver a question. "Do you know who James Garfield was? Do you know who William McKinley was?" The driver responds no both times. "How about Abraham Lincoln?" He nods enthusiastically, "he won the Civil War."

Whatever the impression was of Jackie Kennedy as First Lady, she was not just arranging furniture in the White House, she was instrumental in preserving the memory of John F. Kennedy. She was much more than a widow; she became the gatekeeper to the legacy of not only what Kennedy did, but what he could've done. This sentiment is best articulated in a series of interviews with a writer (Billy Crudup), who presses the former First Lady, only to find she is not the frightened doe that so many make her out to be. Larrain's film would make a perfect bookend with Steven Spielberg's 'Lincoln'. Few films acknowledge that biopics only exist because of the aura we build around mere mortals. 'Jackie' is one of them.