jackie

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy was one of our most iconic first ladies. But, what is not known about the matriarch of American Camelot was her role in ensuring her husband’s legacy in the days after he was assassinated in Dallas on that fateful November day in 1963. That is the premise and the power of Pablo Larraín’s Jackie… a surefire Oscar contender.

Natalie Portman plays the title role and the film shifts from “present” time as she is conducting a post White House interview with a reporter (played by Billy Crudup). It flashes back through various points of her stay in the White House, including the actual assassination, the moments and days after, as well as some happier moments with her husband and young family during their blissful days living in America’s house.

Jackie is a mesmerizing and haunting portrayal of one of the darkest periods in American history, when its charming and adored leader was shot down in the prime of his life. All that promise ended in that Texas city, but what he had done in three short years as President, well, Jackie was determined to ensure that he would be remembered for his significant role in history.

It’s fascinating to see how the First Lady studied President Lincoln and how Mary Todd Lincoln handled the state funeral for her late husband, that included a horse drawn casket down one of Washington, D.C.’s most recognizable streets to a burial plot in Arlington National Cemetery. We’ve all grown up knowing President Kennedy was buried there, but the thought of it was considered out of left field when Jackie brought it up and through her determined perseverance, it became a reality and as they say, the rest is history.

There is so much that is revealed throughout Jackie that further enhanced this writer’s opinion of the First Lady that many thought was merely arm candy for the dashing leader of the Free World. She was, in fact, much more intelligent and more importantly — she was shrewd in her ways of embracing history, politics and the inner workings of Washington to get what she wanted and what she felt her late husband deserved.

Portman gives a performance that is nothing short of a miracle, and is the ultimate salute to a First Lady who was a patriot through and through and did so much to ensure her husband’s legacy in the days following his murder. The Oscar winner’s turn should easily get her another nomination, and perhaps a win. First and foremost, she nails the accent and it is only uphill on the scale of brilliance from there.

There are numerous moments to shine, too many to mention here and too much to give away in a review. But, some of those highlights of Portman’s turn that still haunt us include when Jackie tells her kids that daddy has gone to heaven and when she insists on wearing her blood stained dress out in public after JFK was shot so that the world could see “what they did.” The actress finds depths of her talent that — believe it or not — she has only hinted at prior (and yes, this includes her Academy Award winning turn in Black Swan).

Adding to the haunting nature of this entire endeavor is the score by Mica Levi. The musical progression often reminds of a horror film and in so many ways is spot on. As this film portrays one of the lowest moments for our nation, it is extremely appropriate that the musical tone be one of horror, sorrow and dread. It too should find a nomination bestowed on it when those Oscar nods are announced in January.

A surprise hidden treasure is the casting of Peter Sarsgaard as Bobby Kennedy. JFK’s brother is shown to not only be a right-hand-man to his sibling while he was alive (as we all know so well from history), but also a steely strong shoulder for Jackie to cry on and also serve as a support mechanism for a First Lady who also has to double as a face for a mourning nation. Sarsgaard is simultaneously compassionate, composed and a cherished conduit for Jackie as her requests/demands are delivered to the new president, Lyndon Johnson and his team – who themselves are dealing with a transition that is anything but smooth.

Larrain has the benefit of directing from a pitch-perfect script by Noah Oppenheim. The two collaborate to tell a tale that surprisingly we have never seen prior. This is a side of Camelot and its downfall that has never truly been told. For history buffs, Kennedy appreciators, political junkies and movie fans alike, Jackie is a must-see for all.

It also does something truly fascinating. Jackie leaves us with a feeling a hope for America that is sorely needed during this current political landscape that is rich with divide. As Kennedy was shot and killed, the nation came together to mourn their leader and to do everything we all could as a collective citizenry to ensure the forward progress of our country. Who knew that at the heart of that effort was a First Lady who was mourning her husband, serving as a mother to two children who had lost their father and a First Lady whose every move was watched by a country seeking to make sense of an event that made none whatsoever. All hail Jackie.