I find most bio pics to be gruesomely earnest and formulaic, but when a film transcends the usual traps, it can be a thing of real beauty. This one gave me a deeper feeling for the period and left me haunted with the moods that surely accompanied the instantaneous, brutal end to that fleeting period where there "was a Camelot".
A degree of ambiguity and lack of sugar coating made for a more convincing therefore engrossing experience. The film does convey Jackie's savvy, resolve and poise without needing to dwell and rub all our noses in it. There is also a compelling, pervasive melancholy and one gets a sense that she was not especially fun to be around.
Natalie Portman was of course outstanding in the lead role but I also think we have Chilean director Pablo Larrain to thank for bringing so much nuance. This one really got under my skin and stayed with me, so I give it two thumbs way up!
The opening of the movie goes beyond establishing the subject film; it also provides a credentialed material. The movie opens in the Kennedy family compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman) is shown during an interview with a man known only within the context of the movie as The Journalist (Billy Crudup), taking place a short time after the assassination. The actual interview was conducted by Theodore H. White' for Life magazine. Mr. White was a well-respected journalist honing his craft as a war correspondent and then, during peacetime, moving on to a different manifestation of combat, politics. His series of novels, 'The Making of the President' remains the definitive dissection of their respective elections. However, the usual caveat remains intact. This film is not a documentary and about how closely the filmmaker attempted to stay faithful to the facts numerous occasions of the dramatic license infused in the screenplay. Although that administration had come to be known by the term, Camelot, it is shown that this time within these interviews with Mrs. Kennedy. The historical background of the film allow some the initial questions directed to Mrs. Kennedy to reveal she was glad that she was able to be with her husband during those painful last moments. The Journalist mentions how impressed he was with grace and poise during the now famous the White House she gave on the CBS television network a few years prior providing a segue for the film's first flashback. There was a civility to the exchange that somehow such mutual respect is forgotten the modern style conducting an interview. During that tour of the White House, despite 56 million Americans, and Mrs. Kennedy explained that her family's personal money would be used for the restoration of the White House, not one dime of the taxpayer's money would be used to support the project. There was much of this film that is historically accurate but assumes an entirely different meaning from a contemporary analysis. From our vantage point in time, we have just witnessed an election cycle for the media played this portion it will result in the perception of the candidates by the constituency. The Kennedys, both John, and Jacqueline will discuss first political figures to realize just how important new media outlets such as television would be connecting with the public. For President Kennedy, that moment came in his historic debate with Richard Nixon. Jacqueline Kennedy for the White House significantly contributed to the demystification of that historic structure and to humanize the family inhabiting it.
Normally, flashbacks of the tendency to become tedious and distracting, especially when overly utilized. Director Pablo Larraín can use the structure provided by an ongoing interview to utilize flashbacks in entertaining and exceptionally entertaining fashion. Considered by many to be the best director in Chile the narrative style he creates remarkably consistent that despite the constant ships in the historical vantage point, but rather to a significant part because of it. Making this feed quite remarkable is the fact that this is his first film prepared directly for an American audience. Even into the project with a firmly crafted concept of how the story was told. The one condition that he insisted upon was that Natalie Portman would play the titular role. He felt that she had the air of mystery combined with the elegance and deportment required to do justice to Jacqueline Kennedy. Ms. Portman slips so effortlessly into this role that frequently during my experiencing the film I was so mesmerized that I forgot it was a portrayal. I was very young during the Kennedy administration, but I do remember being impressed with how she carried herself in the aftermath of the assassination.
This is a film that showcases a myriad of extraordinary performances. John Carroll Lynch's presentation of as Lyndon Johnson and Beth Grant pursuing the role of Lady Bird, there certainly captured the essence of two of the period's most interesting couple briefly before they would take up residence in the White House. Peter Sarsgaard gave one of the most extraordinary performances it is a presentation of Robert Kennedy. I was quite grateful that the casting director did not insist on a physical similarity as the crucial criteria for casting the role. What Mr. Sarsgaard lacks in physical similarities in more than makes up for in the intensity of his performance and his ability to capture the epitome of this man. As a long time cinephile, one of my favorite pieces of trivia concerning the transition of power after the assassination was the famous photograph of Lyndon Johnson being sworn in as President all aboard Air Force One. Among the select few in attendence, there was one man seen sitting the corner among the trusted advisors present for that moment this occasion was Jack Valenti (Max Casella) what are the founders of the modCurrent MPAA and the principle author of the current film rating system. I realize that this is a small detail, but historically based drama such as this owes its success or failure such minutiae.
Rising above the amazing achievements of re-creating this time in history that so many of us remember, with such accuracy is to transport the viewer back in time to an age that juxtaposed and social change the elegance and idealism that created a shining moment in history. Like many fans, I have greatly admired the substantial talent of Ms. Portman since she was a child actress. Right from the start, her nacsent abilities were evident. In her debut, 'Léon: The Professional,' it was impossible not to be impressed by the substancial control and range this young girl exhibited. As her career continued to progress the particulars of the role eemed inconsequential. It didn't seem to matter what demands the part presented. Ms. Portman consistently gave her best to the character. Regardless of whether the performance required intense concentration and attention to detail such as 'The Black Swan or that she contend professionally with the notoriously ill-conceived dialogue as she faced in 'Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith,' she never gave less than her best work. This dedication to the constant upward progression of her craft and responsibility she felt for giving her best work to the audience, Ms. Portman possesses a rare gift, er make the embodiment of her noble profession. Within this film, she takes the audience on an emotional journey of such depth and precision that regardless of how often you experience this movie you will discover nuances that retain the freshness of the story.
Although Natalie Portman put in an outstanding performance, I did find this movie quite boring, and I didn't understand what point the director was trying to get across. I know that Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) had to deal with quite a lot after her husband, John F. Kennedy, was sadly assassinated, and that her emotions were all over the place but this film made it look like she was making irrational decisions, without the guidance and help from others. The whole interview part of the movie, was also slightly annoying because half of what she was saying, wasn't allowed to be published, so I didn't see the point of it. With that aside, the director captured the period very well, and the costumes and cinematography was quite impressive but from an entertainment point of view, it could have been much better. It did show how much Jackie loved her husband, and how the funeral was so important to the American public and his loved ones but I personal think that the movie could have covered different elements which would have been more interesting. I have to commend Portman for taking on such an iconic role, which would have been a disaster if she got it wrong, and she brought deep emotion and intensity to her performance, which made it watchable. I did find her voice slightly annoying and the jumpy scenes, which go back and forth in time, were a bad choice by the director but you do get to see how it was for the first lady, before and after she lost her husband. Average!
This movie was directed by Pablo Larrain, 41, who has made most of his movies for a Chilean market, which is were be was born. He directed Neruda, The Club, No, Post Mortem, Tony Manero and Fuga, which have all gone under the radar, in terms of box office hits. I personally think that he should have called this movie "How To Plan A Funeral For A President", because you don't get an in depth look into Jackie Kennedy, who had many different aspects to her life. It was good to see John Hurt, in one of his final roles before his passing, and Peter Sarsgaard (Bobby Kennedy) put in a decent performance but there was way too many elements missing from the film. It doesn't touch the Oliver Stone classic, JFK, which gave a deep insight into the assassination, so I think they need to go back to the drawing board for this one.
Worldwide Gross: $25million
I recommend this movie to people who are into their biography/history/dramas, starring Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, John Hurt, Richard E. Grant, John Carroll Lynch and Corey Johnson. 4/10