Director: Pablo Larraín
Writer: Noah Oppenheim
Cinematographer: Stéphane Fontaine
Producer: Juan de Dios Larraín, Darren Aronofsky, Mickey Liddell, Scott Franklin, and Ari Handel
by Jon Cvack
Continued from Part 1...
One of the earliest moments from Jackie involves her giving a Emmy-award winning documentary tour of the White House, in which she’s forced to wear her iconic red dress and maintain a perpetual smile while answering questions about the White House decor and furnishings (with a couple questions about their commitment to art). Similar to No, Larraín shot this is with what looks to be the same exact black and white film that the actual documentary utilized, allowing us to fully grasp how well Portman sunk into the character and how out of the spotlight, we see that Jackie enjoyed smoking, drinking, and other more masculine activities, knowing she could never reveal them to the public, at times demanding the journalist leave out such details.
The movie accomplishes what all great biopics do in showing an imperfect woman. Jackie had coveted the position as much as anyone else; and while her role was relegated to more superficial aspects, she was forever aware of their place in history. As she declares in an interview with the journalist, her voracious appetite for reading history forced her to muse on what place they would have. In a great moment while riding in the ambulance with Bob Kennedy, she asks the driver if he’s ever heard of James Garfield or William McKinley, to which the driver says no, the way most people would say no. While known in their era, they have now joined the majority of presidents who fail to stand out. With JFK having been in office for just shy of three years, his only major achievement was the Bay of Pigs, along with getting us involved with Vietnam. He had plans to run on big ticket items such as Civil Rights, though I also recommend you look up the hypothesis as to whether or not JFK would have gotten the bill through, given LBJ’s more formidable politicking and experience. Jackie fears that, in the annals of history, the Kennedy name won’t matter, and when you consider how little he accomplished, it does make you stand in awe that he’s achieved such a notorious position in modern history; and yet I can’t help wondering if that’s because of their age, looks, and young children who appeared as the perfect family (JFK’s philandering aside; though the point is mentioned by Jackie).
The film’s critics are those seem equally turned by Malick’s earlier work, seemingly unable to accept a more poetic film than conventional narrative. I don’t know much about Jackie’s life, but the film’s not about that. While it could have easily been adapted as a traditional three-act narrative, with punched up conflicts between the Kennedys and LBJ and extravagant funeral set pieces, instead Larraín directs our intention to grief and the way it affects an individual. To examine the universal idea within such an esteemed person is to provide a link between us and the position. As mentioned at one point, what we learn is that all of these iconic figures of modern history are still humans; feeling similar conflicts of melancholy, confusion, selfishness, and rage.
One of my favorite scenes involved Jackie alone in the private residence, getting drunk, smoking, and taking pills, while playing records, dressing up in various outfits, and having one last night in the White House. At less than three years, she’s forced to abandon all her hopes and ideas, whether for what the White House could be (as a mecca of art and culture) or for the policies that would progress the country forward. Rarely have I felt such empathy for a character, imagining myself as equally irresolute and confused, devastated by having to accept that the dream that was real and coveted had been suddenly stripped away. As her discussion with a Priest progresses (John Hurt; in the film’s second best performance), I was in awe of thinking what difficulty a man of God would have in consoling the situation; only able to provide the same advice that he would likely offer any person of any class; to accept that a piece of you will be forever broken and what’s most important is to try and fill your life with appreciating the remaining moments of happiness you’ll one day grasp. The movie is heartbreaking and yet beautiful to watch, with images that have continued to haunt me for days.
BELOW: Such a simple and beautiful scene
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