Jackie movie director: Pablo Larrain
Jackie movie cast: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, John Carroll Lynch
Jackie movie rating: 2.5
As Robert Kennedy, Peter Sarsgaard doesn’t have much to do in Jackie except hanging at the side of the frame. But he does get in perhaps the most prescient line in the film, “History is harsh. In no time, we are ridiculous.”
Sitting through a film that builds an elaborate portrait of the First Lady who is as much a creation of herself as of the great American obsession with the Kennedys, one can’t help but see that ridiculousness. We are just emerging from an American presidency where the post of the first spouse was reinvented in ways that it can never return to the Jackie Kennedy years, and we are entering another where the First Lady’s claim to Jackie’s legacy does her no credit. Heck, we even nearly had a woman US president while, in 1963, they ever only talked about women as wives of US presidents.
As an exploration of a woman finding her feet in the limelight, cast by a famous husband or family, Jackie could have worked. However, one fears Chilean director Larrain, in his first English project, doesn’t want to ruffle too many feathers. He settles for a portrait of Jackie between John F Kennedy’s assassination and his funeral, where she puts in place the first pieces to ensure America’s love affair with them endures. There are many Jackies here, the Jackie of good taste, the Jackie of nerves, the Jackie of uncertainties, the Jackie of the glamorous photos, the Jackie of unglamorous breakdowns, the Jackie who can manipulate, and the Jackie who can manoeuver.
The narration is propelled by two interviews, one where a nervous Jackie is seeking to impress in a White House Tour being telecast on TV, an initiative she acknowledges is meant to show she matters; and the other where a confident Jackie, a week after her husband’s assassination, is pushing all the buttons. Portman is Oscar-good and adequately noted by the Academy.
However, the film appears to carry its own Jackie baggage, maintaining a reverential distance and giving us only part glimpses that the woman, who first utters the Camelot word here, herself may have approved. Quite like the veil, she wears to Jack’s funeral, fluttering tantalisingly in the wind, but ultimately showing only what she wanted the world to see.