Review: ‘Jackie’ Is A Bunch Of Well Told Anecdotes But Not A Great Movie Overall
Director: Pablo Larrain
Summary: Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy fights through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children, and define her husband’s historic legacy.
One of the movies that everyone was talking about leading up to the awards season was Jackie, a movie about the first lady and her life before, during.and after the assassination her husband, President John F Kennedy. Natalie Portman was chosen for the starring role and the buzz surrounding it was that it was being pitched as the movie that was going to get Portman her second Oscar. It seemed like a given but I’m always leery of Oscar bait. There are countless movies that are prepped for the award circuit and even win said awards that range from mediocre to terrible. That being said there have been countless movies about Kennedy himself, or even the assassination, but very little devoted to the woman who was sitting next to her husband when he died.
Jackie is a bunch of well told anecdotes with a great leading performance from Portman that unfortunately never really comes together.
Of all the things that stayed with me after I finished viewing this film the most vivid is the soundtrack by Mica Levi. This is a historical drama with the soundtrack of a horror movie and it made everything so much better. It was a reminder how a great soundtrack can truly elevate a good scene to a great one. It made the moving moments heartbreaking and the actual assassination that much worse to watch. Jackie (Natalie Portman) tells us what it was like to hold the pieces of her husband’s head together as he died in her arms. What makes it all the worse is we watch her follow the funeral procession through the streets as she watches the mourners. She confesses that she wishes an assassin would have shot her, too, so she wouldn’t have to contemplate doing it herself.
All of this is sold through a fabulous performance from Portman. She looks like she was made to play Jackie Kennedy and the likeness is almost uncanny. The moments when she is standing in front of a mirror on Air Force One wiping the blood from her face with a tissue while sobbing is a gut punch. We watch her move throughout the rooms of the White House as she changes into different dresses and breaks down. The moments are intense and hard to watch as if we’re very much seeing something we’re not supposed to see.
The unfortunately thing, however, is that the movie doesn’t ever feel like it entirely comes together as a cohesive whole. There are a lot of scenes that are just stunning to watch but when it’s all said and done it doesn’t feel like a complete movie, rather a bunch of well told and well acted anecdotes. The movie isn’t told linearly which is probably the better way of doing it as it is framed as an interview with Jackie after the assassination, but it’s also the thing that keeps everything from coming together. I now know more about this woman but I’m not entirely sure what the movie was trying to say by the end, if anything.
Jackie is one of the better movies of the year but it’s also extremely frustrating to see such good performances, backed by great soundtrack, not quite come together in the end. It’s a movie that made me want to learn more about Jackie Kennedy and really hammers home what she must have went through the day those shots were fired. The soundtrack sounding like a horror movie really fits because every moment in Jackie Kennedy’s life after that probably felt like one.