Lyric Movie Review: Portman brings historical accuracy to ‘Jackie’

Nicole Towne

On a November afternoon in 1963, President John F. Kennedy was fatally shot during a presidential motorcade and left the first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, covered in her husband’s blood.

Americans are still held captivated by the Kennedys 53 years later. The new movie “Jackie” is an attempt to give viewers an up-close and personal view of Jacqueline Kennedy after the assassination.

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The movie, directed by Pablo Larraín and staring Natalie Portman as the first lady, tell the story of Jackie following her husband’s death up through her first press interview. The interview helps guide the movie as Jackie’s responses to questions leads to unfolding what actually happened.

The movie displays how Jackie created the idealistic picture of the Kennedy family and pushed the Camelot parallels. During her interview with the reporter, she encourages the idea that Kennedys were the family that everyone longed for and that they were able to have a brief, but glorious reign. Subtle hints in the movie seem to suggest otherwise. As a result, she helped shape the image that people continue to remember today.

The movie features Portman sporting the iconic pink dress suit, nearly identical to what Jackie wore on her husband’s final day. Despite being covered in blood, she declares that she will not change her clothes or hide from the public eye. She wants the world to see what has been done.

Less than two hours after her husband is pronounced dead, Jackie is present as Lyndon B. Johnson takes the presidential oath on Air Force One, still wearing the dress suit. Amidst her own grieving, Jackie must to press onward as she helps arrange the funeral and funeral procession, as well explains to her two young children Caroline and John Jr. that their father will not be coming home.

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Photo courtesy of: Wikimedia
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cc/Lyndon_B._Johnson_taking_the_oath_of_office,_November_1963.jpg Photo credit: WikiImages

“Jackie” displayed great attention to detail. Portman appears to play the multi-faceted character with ease. She is the caring mother, poised first lady, mourning widow and the assertive woman. During the movie there are flashbacks to the first lady’s “Tour of the White House” television special. Upon reviewing actual footage of the tour and Portman’s interpretation of Kennedy during the tour, it is visible how carefully Portman studied Jackie’s character. This is evident in her speech, posture, tone and appearance.

One of the downfalls of “Jackie” is its narrow timeline. The viewers get to see only a week in the life of the mourning first lady. There is virtually no information regarding her life prior to becoming a Kennedy. There are some details focusing on her time in the White House, but the vast majority of the movie takes place after the president’s death.

While this movie is titled “Jackie,” it seems that every moment of the movie relates back to her husband in one way or another. Viewers are not able to see Jackie live for herself. This is in part due to the chosen setting. In turn, this does create increased drama and intensity.

Overall, “Jackie” shares the emotionally challenging story of a woman on the national stage dealing with a national tragedy and painful personal loss. Natalie Portman’s performance in conjunction with historic details add significant value to the film. While engaging and moving, “Jackie” is unavoidably sad. History lovers and fans of dramas are most likely to enjoy “Jackie.” This movie is not your light and easy Friday night comedy, but it is able to take a closer look at one of America’s most talked about first ladies.