Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Jackie Review

The story of President John F. Kennedy is a rather intriguing one. If I'm being honest, I am no historian and thus I am the last person you should turn to for an in-depth history lesson on the Kennedys. But the basics of his assassination is definitely something that I think every American knows. The assassination of President Kennedy has elevated him to be among one of the most well-known and widely discussed presidents to ever take the Oval Office. But what would his legacy be had he not been assassinated? I know many people that think that he was already one of the greatest presidents, thus making his assassination even more tragic. I also know people that think he was an awful president that only became a hero because he was assassinated. If you want my opinion on that matter, well you're not going to get it. At least not here. Because this is not a movie about John F. Kennedy. In fact, this is not even really a political movie at all. This is a movie about a woman who was sitting in a car next to her husband when someone shot him in the head and killed him and how she dealt with that horrific tragedy. That woman is, of course, John F. Kennedy's wife Jackie.

First of all let me say that if you are wanting a movie that goes in depth about the assassination of President Kennedy, this is not your movie. That scene exists in the movie and I'll talk about it later, but this doesn't dive into the investigation of his death and all the conspiracy that follow due to the fact that the man who shot him was also shot shortly after. This is all about how Jackie dealt with the loss of her husband. Here was a woman who had pretty much everything she wanted in life. I mean, her husband was the President of the United States. He was far from perfect, but he was still her husband and she loved him and it was a great position to be in. But then in a moment's notice, all of that was ripped away from her and now she is left as a widow with two young children. I don't care who you are, the death of a husband is an awful thing for a woman to have to experience and I would imagine it would be especially tough if that woman really wasn't able to have a ton of privacy to mourn his loss due to her position. This is not an in-depth biopic of Jackie's whole life. In fact, this focuses mainly on that brief period of time between her husband's assassination and his funeral and what she went through during that time, which had to have been devastating.

Before I go any further into this review, allow me to add my voice to the long list of people that have been praising Natalie Portman. I haven't spent much time in my life listening to or researching Jackie Kennedy. Perhaps that puts me in the minority. I can accept that. But luckily there was an invention called YouTube that has like every video ever. After seeing this movie, I searched Jackie Kennedy on YouTube and holy fetch. Natalie Portman sounds exactly like Jackie Kennedy. She perfectly captured all her speech patterns, movements and mannerisms. Add to that much praise for the makeup, hairstyle and wardrobe departments for making Natalie Portman look like Jackie Kennedy. Yes, it's Natalie Portman's face. That's hard to hide since she's one of the most recognizable actresses in the business. But the rest of her is Jackie Kennedy to a "t." On an emotional scale, Natalie Portman also does a fantastic job of capturing the complexity of the situation for this woman. I'm sure she would've loved a lot of privacy to mourn the loss of her husband, but she wasn't really able to have much of that. Thus she had to balance trying to be elegant and composed while at the same time giving herself time to mourn. It was an all-around brilliant performance.

If we're making comparisons here, Natalie Portman's performance is definitely on par with that of Daniel Day-Lewis' performance as Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln." Definitely an Oscar-worthy performance for Natalie. Does she deserve to win? Well that's a bit tricky. Her main competition will be against Amy Adams from "Arrival" and Emma Stone from "La La Land." That's a hard one for me to choose. I really want Amy Adams to finally win an Oscar, but I don't think it should be a lifetime achievement award, so to speak. "Arrival" wasn't even Amy's best performance of the year. Even though "Arrival" is the better movie, I think "Nocturnal Animals" was the better movie. And "La La Land" is my favorite movie of the year and possibly my favorite movie of the decade and much of that lies on the shoulders of Emma Stone, who is one of my favorite actresses. But if I am isolating the specific performance, I think Natalie Portman gives the best performance of the three. We'll see who rounds out the final five when nominations come out, but I don't think I'd pick Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Isabelle Huppert, Ruth Negga or Annette Bening, either. Give the Oscar to Natalie!

So yes, I've established the fact that Natalie Portman gives an absolutely phenomenal performance, but how about the actual movie she is in? Well, that gets a bit tricky. I think there are a lot of amazing individual scenes in this movie. Perhaps it's the journalist in me, but I loved the scenes where the journalist is interviewing Jackie. That was such a crazy interview and an interview like that would be an absolute blast to conduct. She was quite the character in that interview as she would say things and go off on an emotional tangent, but then she'd tell the interviewer that she didn't say that. Then there were times where she became the interviewer and started interrogating the journalist and asking him questions. Then she would state that she would be editing the interview to make sure the quotes are what she wants rather than what she actually said. It was quite the fun interview and the dynamic between these two. The other moments that I loved were moments between Jackie and a priest. This is where Jackie was able to pour her whole soul out and express how she really felt without the pressure of her statements being published or broadcast to the world. Combine the journalist and priest scenes and you have quite the character study here for Jackie Kennedy that makes you really appreciate how she handled this horrific situation.

In addition to those scenes we would jump to the scenes showing the drama that happened directly following the assassination and all the decisions needed to be made for the funeral arrangements. There was also the difficult task of telling her two kids that their father had just been shot and killed and thus wouldn't be coming back. How do you do that? Then we have flashbacks to her time with her husband before he was killed, showing their relationship instead of just her telling the journalist or the priest about their relationship. And of course we do show the assassination scene, which is absolutely brutal. Seeing the actual live coverage of the assassination that we actually have is brutal enough, but this movie portrays it up close and it's extremely graphic and hard to watch. It adds a lot of weight to what Jackie went through as we see her react to her witnessing her husband's brains getting blown out with blood going everywhere. So yes, there are a lot of individually fascinating sequences in this movie. But together as a whole I don't think all the scenes weave together super well. It was just a bunch of individual scenes randomly glued together with a soundtrack that got noisy at times and camerawork that framed everything in the dead center.

So I don't know what to do with this movie as a whole. I don't want to say it was bad. Because it wasn't. I sincerely believe that Natalie Portman gave a legendary performance that deserves the win in a very crowded race. And if you isolate all the individual scenes, the movie is a fascinating character study that dives into the life of Jackie Kennedy directly following the assassination of her husband. Given her situation, she wasn't allowed a ton of privacy and all things considered she handled it pretty well, but when she did get some privacy, those scenes are very powerful. But all these scenes with this fantastic performance weren't glued together very well. I found myself loving the performance and being intrigued by this character study, but I wasn't loving the movie as a whole. I've seen a lot of other biopics that work much better as a movie. The scenes didn't connect together super well and there wasn't a strong overall story arc. This should've been a much more powerful movie than it actually was. Giving one grade to this movie is hard. Natalie gets a perfect score. A lot of individual scenes and moments get a perfect score. But in grading the overall movie, I feel I can only give "Jackie" a 7/10, but one number doesn't do this justice, so take that for what it's worth.

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