There are pivotal points in history that endlessly fascinate people. We pick over them looking for insights and slice them up into ever smaller pieces hoping to find truth. The assassination of JFK is one such moment and Jackie attempts to fill in some of those moments from a new point of view: his new widow. Pablo Larraín (Neurda) used Noah Oppenheim’s (Allegiant) script to create a sort of voyeuristic, reality-TV view of the week that followed the tragedy. Up front, it just doesn’t work, at least not for me. It feels forced, it has little shape, and I felt little connection to Jackie as she struggled, as they put it, “to secure her husband’s legacy.”
Natalie Portman (Léon: The Professional) does an incredible job capturing the former first lady. Most of the praise around this film is focused on her for good reason. Her performance is subtle, slipping from devastation to hard resolve in a blink. We see her life inserted into well recorded moments, whether the tour of the White House or watching the shooting of Oswald. The known footage helps anchor the timeline, but it also oddly distances the action we are watching, making it feel fake.
Billy Crudup (Spotlight) supports Portman well as a very self-assured journalist who Jackie intends to both control and win over. Part of the failure of this film is the lack of definition of that relationship and how Crudup’s character ends up in Hyannis Port with her. Jackie’s distrust and anger at the media is made apparent, and she hand-picked this journo for reasons we never really understand. We don’t, or at least I didn’t, feel that moment of catalyst at the end that sets Jackie’s course for the rest of her life.
To let you know just how much this story failed me, I was more fascinated by the Doctor Who connection to this movie than the movie itself. John Hurt (Snowpiercer) who was the War Doctor and Corey Johnson (Genius) who played Henry van Statten in Dalek are both in the cast.
If you simply can’t get enough about this moment in history, you will have to see this film. Otherwise, I wouldn’t spend the time unless you need to see Portman’s performance for the purpose of voting or fandom. It is a slow-paced rehash of moments you know through a slightly different perspective, but without a lot of revelation.