Today, New Year's Eve, I finally made it to the movies. I went to see Natalie Portman's portrayal of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, known as Jackie to her millions of admirers during her lifetime.
As anticipated, it is a powerful film letting the audience into the private rooms of the White House and the machinations of crisis in the Executive branch of our government.
It is a piece in which the focus jumps back and forth between the present day for the film (after the assassination), the scrambling to make arrangements, and the personal aftermath for the title character. It begins with Jackie's televised tour of the White House and all of the original furnishings she found and brought back to the home of the American President. I remember that interview. My parents and I watched the black and white presentation, the kinetic screen flickering as it did in those days. She was a beautiful woman with a quiet, breathy voice, still the voice of a young woman, but that was before her husband was murdered in an open car in Dallas. He died in her lap before they ever made it to Parkland Hospital. It's hard to live with a goodly portion of your head and brain blasted away.
We all wondered why she jumped on the back of the car, what she was doing after the shots rang out. She was trying to retrieve all the pieces of his brain and head that littered the once immaculate black trunk of the convertible limousine. The cameras were rolling filming the motorcade that day. The awful events have been well preserved for history.
The movie opens with jumping scenes moving with electric speed from the tour mentioned above, to the assassination, and then a later scene where she is being interviewed after she has left the White House and lives in a borrowed estate. It is there she meets with the journalist, the first one she has granted an interview.
She puts up lots of barriers to his questions. Several times when she is candid with him, she tells him he can't use the information. Literally lighting up another cigarette after she finishes the previous one, he plans to depict her smoking throughout the interview. She takes another deep draw and announces she doesn't smoke. She was very conscious of her public image.
The state funeral is portrayed as the historical significance of each phase is mentioned. JFK's funeral was planned on Lincoln's. They used the same cason for the casket of the young president as they had for Lincoln.
The processional march from the Capitol to the cathedral where the funeral was being held was particularly contentious with Jackie changing her mind not once but twice. Plus Rose Kennedy wanted her son buried with the rest of the family in Brookline, Massachusetts. Jackie wanted him in Arlington National Cemetery where he is to this day.
Natalie Portman is incredible in the role.
She is aided by a strong cast which includes:
Peter Sarsgaard as Robert Kennedy
Billy Crudup as reporter Theodore H. White
Beth Grant as Lady Bird Johnson (an eerie lookalike to her character we've seen in other things)
Caspar Phillipson as John Fitzgerald Kennedy
John Carroll Lynch as LBJ
John Hurt as Father Richard McSorley
The cast works well together and are believable in their roles.
This is an immaculate representation of the real events. My only criticism is the music score was LOUD and distracting at times. I don't know if that was intentional or a problem with the theater's sound system. It was unfortunate whatever the cause.
I predict Ms. Portman to be a favorite during awards season. She's already culled some nominations. The rest of the cast is competent particularly John Hurt, Peter Sarsgaard, and Billy Crudup. Unfortunately JFK is only seen in one scene outside the actual assassination. The actor resembles his character, but is a much shorter man. For that matter, Ms. Portman is a petite woman. Jackie Kennedy was about 5'7. But that's easily overlooked. She is very strong in her portrayal of the historical icon.
The film brings the details of the murder into grisly, stark reality. Except for the Zapruder film shot on an old 8mm hand held camera, all the other footage was in black and white. Plus we never saw the carnage in the car either in black and white or color. For that I am grateful, the longshots were rough enough especially for an impressionable thirteen-year-old.
Jackie is a good film which didn't show me too much I didn't already know, except that mentioned above. It held my attention and yes it made me weep. It's hard not to when you remember that "once there was a spot which was known as Camelot." The bitter thing is the romantic glow lasted such a short time.
If you want to see a good film depicting John Kennedy in one of his triumphs, see the film Thirteen Days. It is about the Cuban Missile Crisis, considered one of the finest moments of his Presidency.
I'm sorry but when I think back on this recent election with its' name calling and incivility, I think of "Camelot" and just shake my head.
Until next time...
Be safe tonight.