Jackie

Directed by the critically acclaimed Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín, Jackie is a powerful film about the JFK assassination as told from the personal perspective of Jacqueline Kennedy, with a remarkable performance from Academy Award-winning actress Natalie Portman. The JFK assassination has been explored many times in cinema and television, yet this movie gives a uniquely important contribution by depicting the personal toll the horrific event had on those intimately involved. The movie follows Jackie as she experiences the visceral shock of watching her husband being viciously murdered and the aftermath as she tries to cope with his death as well as helping the American people cope with the tragedy. It is primarily told through a series of flashbacks as she recounts those fateful days in November 1963 to a journalist, played by Billy Crudup, at the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. Although much of the dialogue is fictionalized dramatization, the filmmaker crafts a vivid picture of the emotional trauma experienced by Jackie, not just as another public figure, but as a wife who just lost her beloved, albeit complicated husband. We witness her heart-wrenching grief of suddenly becoming a widow and having to tell her two young children that their father is gone. Portman gives a nuanced and dignified performance, very much like the real young and stylish first lady, who must deal with her own emotions while at the same time planning the logistics of burying an American president, moving out of the White House, and ensuring a seamless transition to the new president. The film’s power lies in its subdued and vignette-heavy structure that focuses on intimate details rather than the sensational criminal act of the assassination itself. It feels very much like an independent movie because of its artistic use of cinematography, slow pace, and in-depth character studies that rely on terrific acting performances. The filmmaker also cleverly uses songs from the musical Camelot to underscore the idealistic JFK presidency, often referred to as Camelot, that came to a crashing halt with an act of violence. Overall, I found it to be a film of immense poignancy that effectively captures the human emotion of grief, primarily as a result of Natalie Portman giving one of the more memorable acting performances of the year.

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