MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures
On DVD and Blu-Ray, Video on Demand, iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, Fandango Now and VUDU.
Directed by Pablo Larrain. Starring Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard
Of all the leading performances nominated for an Academy Award this year, one of the least-seen and discussed was Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Jacqueline Kennedy in Jackie, and it’s easy to see why. Jackie is not an easy film to describe or to sit through. It is not a standard biopic of a President’s wife, but rather a tone poem of sorts about the events that immediately followed John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.
As the film begins, an unnamed reporter (Billy Crudup) is attempting to interview the grieving widow. She shares with him a bit of information but then holds back from saying too much. In 1962 Jackie allowed a film crew inside the White House for a famous television tour, but is now reluctant to grab the spotlight at this time of sadness, grief, and transition.
The film moves away from the interview to revisit the immediate past: Jackie’s initial shock after the shooting, her private moments of tears and sadness, and her brave resolve as she talks to her children about their father and tries not to use the word “death”.
We also see the rough transition that was a part of the sudden change in power, as Jackie begins to pack up her family’s belongings to make room for Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson to move into the White House as President and First Lady.
The mood of the movie is meditative, but also deliberately unnerving, with pretentious music on the soundtrack asserting itself in a way that can drown out the dialogue in key scenes. Cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine used 16mm film for this feature, which also helps to locate the drama in a particular time and place.
Portman’s vocal impersonation of Kennedy is impressive, coupled with quiet and dignified body language and sensitive facial expressions. It is something to behold.
One of the most haunting descriptions of the Messiah as a Suffering Servant is found in Isaiah, who describes him as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3 KJV) This movie is an opportunity to ponder the fact that death and sudden loss happen to all of us, including the rich and powerful.
Jackie is a film that I admired and appreciated, but couldn’t quite love, and that may be intentional. The movie doesn’t try to evoke love, but understanding. In that capacity, it succeeds mightily.
Three halos: An evocative portrait of one person’s public and private grieving.
Two pitchforks: A gory act of violence and its bloody aftermath, brief swearing.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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