November 22nd 1963 is a date a lot of Americans will never forget. A beautiful Dallas day, until the President of the United States was assassinated, changing this country forever. There has been many stories about that faithful day, all trying to tell the story that we all think we know. But we have yet to see the viewpoint of the woman by JFK’s side that fateful day, Jackie Kennedy, what she went through and the events that followed.
I can still see that image of Mrs. Kennedy (Natalie Portman) sitting next to her husband as that second shot hit him. To see her reaction as she tries to gather the pieces of her husband as the motorcade sped away. Jackie knew her husband was dead, as her first reaction was to protect the legacy, to make sure everything was handled right. We see Jackie again as she is giving an interview to a reporter (Billy Crudup), trying to tell the story of her husband, as well as answering the questions people want to know. As the terrible days go on, we are taken to various points in time. We see the moments after the shots at the hospital as she tries to protect her husband. We also see as she plans her husband’s funeral, every detail from where he is to be buried, to how he is to be taken to the cemetery. We see Mrs. Kennedy show strength and vulnerability at the same time, which serves as a reminder that no matter where we placed her in our culture, she was still human.
The Kennedy’s were often compared to the family that ruled Camelot, as they were often referred to as “America’s Royalty.” There was a way that Jackie Kennedy carried herself, and Natalie Portman has that about her in many of the same ways. Portman disappears and Jackie emerges. The presence she commands on the screen is breathtaking as you forget you are watching someone portraying a person, and not the actual subject. The story written by Noah Oppenheim weaves that week and story together in a beautiful way. While Director Pablo Larrain uses historical footage mixed with Hollywood magic, which seems to mesh perfectly. All of it comes together with the help from Mica Levi’s score that only adds another level of craft to an already moving story.
Some versions of history should be told, but sometimes you have to wait until everything comes together to tell it just right. That is this time for “Jackie”, as the right way to tell it was told, and the right person as Portman’s performance excels as she becomes Jackie Kennedy. You will hear about this movie often in the next few months as the award season starts. While often that “buzz” you hear is not always justifed, in this case it wholeheartedly is. So as you make your list of end of the year movies to see, add “Jackie” if you want a film and a performance worth seeing.