365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About


Jackie (2016)

Less than a month ago, I would have said Natalie Portman (Black Swan, Brothers) was the one lock for an Academy Award win. Her portrayal as the grieving Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the wake of her husband's assassination by Lee Harvey Oswald. Portman just looked the part and it felt like this was the role she was born to play. Portman is a fantastic actress, and she did an above average job in Jackie. But this movie was so flat and depressing that I wonder if it's going to be enough to take out Emma Stone in La La Land, the movie that has been gaining lots and lots of steam in recent weeks. As I look at this list of contenders for Best Actress, I'm not overly impressed. This definitely helps Portman. This film only had to be pretty good to convince me that she should win. Unfortunately, the movie did not live up to my expectations at all. While I learned a lot about Jackie Kennedy, her relationship with her family, the media, and the people of America, and the events that occurred on November 22, 1963, and the week afterward, I felt this movie overall was very dark and very dull. Though only an hour and a half, it felt like a three-hour snoozefest. It's hard to recommend a movie that felt more like a history lesson that you should be required to watch in your 11th-grade US History class.

The movie is told in the form of flashbacks as Jackie gives a one on one interview with a journalist (Billy Crudup - Almost Famous, Spotlight) in the temporary home she is staying at in Massachusetts. It is one week after her husband John F. Kennedy has been killed while campaigning in Dallas, TX for a second term as President of the United States. As most of us know, Jackie was sitting right next to her husband in the convertible when Lee Harvey Oswald fired two shots on the President with the second one killing him. This movie features JFK, but only in a couple of scenes and only for ever so briefly. Really there is a two-part focus.

Really there is a two-part focus. There is a story that revolves around Jackie's actions the minutes, hours, and days after the assassination. This is the heart of the movie. The second story centers around when, in 1962, Jackie is filming 1962 special for CBS that allows the American people an inside look at The White House. Over 50 million people are expected to watch the special that Jackie narrates about some the history of the building, some of the different rooms in the house, and many of its prized possessions. Jackie is being coached up prior to the special and being reminded to smile and to be personable in front of the camera. She's the ultimate First Lady, but sometimes she needs to be reminded how to play the part. This was the less exciting of the two stories. I'm not sure it was needed at all. But even with that story, the movie didn't even reach 90 minutes. I didn't imagine a movie on Jackie Kennedy would be struggling to find enough content, but it sort of was. This 1962 story in no way prepared you for the 1963 story. And it's not like the 1962 story was told before the 1963 story. The two stories kept bouncing back and forth along with the present day interview. Maybe director Pablo Larraín did this to show that Jackie was something before this incident, a woman in history who strove for her place among the other first ladies and didn't want to portray her as the mourning woman whose decisions after her husband were killed were based on the difficult emotions rather than a more sound rationale.

Jackie wanted her husband to be memorialized and remembered. She wanted a procession through the streets of Washington DC in the fashion of Abraham Lincoln. She was heard asking what people remembered of Presidents William McKinley or James Garfield. When solid answers weren't given, she would then ask the same question about Abraham Lincoln. And, of course, he was remembered for freeing the slaves. She wanted her husband to be remembered like Lincoln and not forgotten like McKinley or Garfield. And it sort of seemed that she was going to get whatever she wanted despite the security risks.

The always enigmatic Peter Sarsgaard (Blue Jasmine, An Education) plays one of his most toned down roles in years as Kennedy's brother Robert. He doesn't make an appearance until the film is almost halfway through, but he inserts himself in grand fashion and is great opposite Portman. Sarsgaard isn't always my favorite actor, but he's almost always very, very good. He's been good at playing the bad guy recently so it was nice to see him in a different role. He's excellent in this movie. As mentioned, his performance as RFK was subdued. Robert was aching over the assassination of his brother but, like Jackie, was forced to make difficult decisions quickly about his brother. He and Jackie had a very close and unspoken relationship. In a weird sort of way, it was as if these two characters were expecting this assassination to happen. I have no idea if this was the case in real life (Jackie did mention threats to the President and how JFK was constantly on 'Wanted' signs), but the two actors portrayed the characters this way.

The majority of the movie did revolve around Jackie trying to do the right thing following John's death. Jackie wore the pain in every facial expression and everything she said. Her goal was to preserve his memory and to remind the American people that he was a great man who would have done even greater things had he been given more time. I'm not sure she was a difficult person to be around, but it's as if everyone in the cabinet was bending over backward trying to make her happy (even though they disagreed with her and talked to Robert to get her to change her mind). In the end, Jackie had control of the situation and it was her decisions that gave us the lasting impact that we have of his feel ride through the city and his final destination at Arlington National Cemetary.

Accompanying the plot of Jackie was one of the darkest scores in years. String instruments, almost like a symphony, tied together each scene, darkening the movie at every little turn. It felt like it was too much and made the movie even more depressing than it would have otherwise been. The scenery felt very 1960's Washington DC and Dallas, TX.

This movie was boring. I don't know if it needed to be made. There have been other movies that have featured Jackie Kennedy including Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, A Woman Named Jackie, Grey Gardens, Lee Daniels' The Butler, and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. This one portrayed Jackie in a different manner than the others, and rightfully so. This was dark. Jackie had JUST lost her husband and new she had to deal with it in a way that others would not be able to deal with the loss of theirs. She knew the American people were watching. The face she put on for the public was very different than the one she put on in private. Portman was very good as Jackie. Good enough to win an Oscar? I don't know. 2016 is pretty weak in terms of leading performances by actresses so there is a chance. I think she'd have a far better chance if the movie was better. I know it has a high score on Rotten Tomatoes (88%). But remember, that just means that 9 out of 10 reviewers recommended the movie (not necessarily that they thought it was amazing). It was not a fantastic movie. It was serviceable for the die hard moviegoer and those who might be looking for a history lesson. I'm glad I saw it, but it was not the movie I expected it to be. I had much higher hopes.

Plot 8/10
Character Development 8/10
Character Chemistry 8/10
Acting 8/10
Screenplay 6/10
Directing 6/10
Cinematography 7.5/10
Sound 6/10 (the music was brooding and darkened the tone of the movie even more...it was often far too much)
Hook and Reel 6/10
Universal Relevance 10/10

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