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Monday, January 30, 2017

Movie Review: Jackie (2016) and Identity

Starring: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig
Written By: Noah Oppenheim 
Directed By: Pablo Larrain
Release Date: December 2, 2016
Rating: A-

I could probably count the amount of films I’ve seen about any of our former first ladies on my right hand alone. While this is a sad fact, this is also what gives Jackie its sparkle. We all know the story of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, but we don't really know the story of the woman who essentially held the public together as it everyone apart over the death of one of America's most beloved Presidents. 
The film is essentially an episodic re-telling of the week of John F. Kennedy's assassination, exploring the depths of Jackie Kennedy's psyche on top of the events of the shooting and its aftermath. Natalie Portman doesn't just place herself in the role of prim and poised former-First Lady Jackie Kennedy. She doesn't just simply focus on her accent and her perfectly calculated mannerisms. She places herself in the role of a broken woman overcome with grief. What’s important is not the events of the shooting itself, but of how it affects Ms. Kennedy while she's telling this story many years after the fact. Many famous photos and interviews of Jackie Kennedy are portray her as this perfect woman, all dolled up with makeup and fancy dresses, smiling and waving to strangers. It's hard to relate to someone who seemingly has everything they could ever want. While we still love this version of Jackie Kennedy as it’s the one that’s been celebrated throughout history, the best parts of the film occur when she sheds that persona for a more human one. 
When her husband dies, she’s not only lost him, she's lost herself as well. After she’s wiped as much blood off of her as possible, she cleans off the mirror and then suddenly, her reflection is gone. Who is she now that she isn’t the first lady? Even though her husband is gone, she’s still trying to hold together the seemingly perfect personality that she’s put on for so long.  Moments later after she's finished cleaning up, she walks back out of the bathroom composed, demanding to see her husband’s body, as if she's unperturbed by his death. As she continues to go over the events of that day, the camera is completely level between her and the interviewer. Even though she goes from smoking a cigarette in front of him to hysterically crying the next, she's still the same woman we saw previously. Instead of her actions coming off as robotic and calculated as they were when he was alive, they now come off as heartbreaking. 
In order to keep her to keep her husband’s name alive, she skips the grieving process and throws herself into planning a funeral no one would forget. She does not indulge in her own sadness in order to preserve the feelings of those around her including her children and the people of America. Her resilient attitude was what the world needed, but in Jackie we get to see what's behind all of her calculated smiles. It’s exactly the kind of film we needed to fully understand the iconic woman behind the pink Chanel suit. While she was out there fighting for her husband’s name to be remembered, she unknowingly made one for herself and while it's probably not the film anyone was really looking for, it was one that was desperately needed.

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