"Camelot Fantasies/Nightmares Unwind Haphazardly"
JACKIE is a frustrating movie to watch about an iconic historical figure. It focuses on Jackie Kennedy, the widow of President John F. Kennedy, as she tries to cope with her tragic loss in the immediate aftermath of her husband’s assassination in Dallas, Texas on Nov. 22, 1963. Natalie Portman gives an outstanding performance in the title role of JACKIE, and there’s some positive overt Christian content, but the script is a jumbled mess of flashbacks containing some unforgiveable, politically correct revisionist history, along with some strong foul language and bloody images of President Kennedy’s fatal head wound.
The movie opens with annoying discordant music as Jackie Kennedy looks stunned and numb on Air Force One after her husband’s murder. Cut to Hyannis Port a week or so later, where Jackie sits for an Life Magazine interview with Kennedy hagiographer Theodore H. White, who appears strangely unsympathetic and hard-nosed. Jackie is frank with White, who’s unnamed in the movie, telling him she will delete anything in his story she doesn’t want to see in print.
From this opening, the movie cuts back and forth between her interview with the reporter to the immediate aftermath of her husband’s shocking death, to her televised 1961 tour of the White House, and to her elaborate preparations for her husband’s funeral to the actual funeral itself. Eventually, the movie gets to Jackie’s horrific experience in the motorcade in Dealey Plaza in Dallas when communist loon Lee Harvey Oswald blew her husband’s brains out. It ends at a White House concert and dance in 1961 where Jackie dances happily with Jack Kennedy as aural visions of the Broadway musical CAMELOT reverberate on the soundtrack.
The flashbacks and flash-forwards in JACKIE almost destroy Natalie Portman’s performance as the widow of America’s second most famous assassinated president. The movie’s nearly constant shift in setting, tone and emotion also keeps undercutting the story’s emotional cohesiveness.
Director Pablo Larraín clearly is trying to create a Marxist, Brechtian felling of alienation to counteract Jackie’s obsession with trying to make her husband’s presidency seem like some sort of idealized version of Camelot, King Arthur’s mythical kingdom. This kind of theatrical distancing, however, hardly ever works on screen, even more so when it’s clearly beyond Larraín’s capability as a film director. Also, by presenting in the final scene such an idealized version of Kennedy’s presidency, and his relationship to his wife, Jackie, Larraín’s movie actually does the opposite of what he apparently intended, leaving viewers with a validation of Jackie’s successful propaganda efforts to make President Kennedy and his presidency seem like a lost Eden.
Another scene toward the end cements this false hagiography when the president’s brother, Robert Kennedy, privately and vociferously tells Jackie about his anger that his brother’s glorious reign and wonderful future was cut short by an assassin’s bullet. During that scene, Robert mentions the progress he and his brother wanted to make in civil rights, when the South was still run by political forces in favor of forced segregation. “We could have done so much good,” he tells Jackie. In reality, however, because of the power of Southern Democrats in their party, the Kennedys never got around to introducing any significant civil rights legislation until September 1963, a full 32 months into their 48-month term and only two months before President Kennedy was brutally murdered. So, ultimately, the movie is a bit misleading when it comes to President Kennedy’s administration.
JACKIE is also misleading when it comes to the personal relationship between Jackie and her husband. At one point, Jackie hints to the reporter that she and her husband had a troubled relationship, but that he always came home to be a good father to their children. The movie doesn’t mention all the adulterous affairs President Kennedy had during their marriage, including the one with the mistress of the Chicago mob boss who helped the Democrats rig the election in Illinois so that Kennedy could defeat Richard Nixon by the slimmest of margins in the 1960 presidential election. Also, the movie never tells viewers that Kennedy was a strong anti-communist, who cut taxes to make the American economy grow, actions that the liberals now running the Democratic Party and the mass media constantly mock at almost every opportunity. (They also don’t tell people that the Kennedy tax cuts actually did make the economy run stronger, as did Calvin Coolidge’s tax cuts in the 1920s, President Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts in the 1980s, and Newt Gingrich’s tax cuts in the 1990s.) So, the impressions one gets of President Kennedy from JACKIE in this movie are actually false, suggesting that Kennedy was more like Barack Obama, than he was like Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton, whose extramarital affairs were exposed when he ran for the presidency in 1992 and 1996.
Happily, however, JACKIE does contain a lengthy scene between Jackie and a Catholic priest, who comforts the First Lady about her tragic loss and tries to answer her questions about God. The movie also contains the famous line Jackie uttered about her husband’s killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, where she said, “A communist killed my husband.” That’s exactly what happened, all the JFK conspiracy theories to the contrary. Regrettably, though, a final, brief goodbye scene with the priest has the priest, played touchingly by John Hurt, giving her a non-religious piece of advice. Considering their inspiring conversation before, this brief scene doesn’t fit and doesn’t make sense.
Ultimately, the movie’s positive Christian content almost balances out the politically correct revisionist history. Even so, extreme caution is still advised for JACKIE because of its ultimately misleading rosy picture of Kennedy’s presidency and his relationship with his wife, brief strong foul language including one “f” word and two GDs, and some extremely bloody images of President Kennedy’s horrific head wound after suddenly getting shot twice. Needless to say, JACKIE contains some really intense, emotionally powerful, very sad scenes.
(Pa, CC, RoRo, PCPC, RHRH, AC, H, L, VVV, A, DD, M) Light mixed worldview with some overt, strong Christian content that includes a positive clergyman, mixed with some Romantic, politically correct revisionist history, an anti-communist line, priest utters some humanist advice in one line of dialogue; two or three obscenities (including one “f” word), two GD profanities and one light profanity; very strong violence when two bullets hit President Kennedy in the head, very bloody images of Kennedy’s fatal head wound, blood splatter on Jackie Kennedy’s face and clothes, Jackie washes off blood her face, blood from her hair streaks down her back as she takes a shower; no sex scenes; implied female nudity in shower, and woman in slip and bra, but no explicit nudity; brief alcohol use; smoking and woman takes pills in tragic aftermath that may be valium or something like that to calm her nerves, but no sign of addiction, though she does stare at medication her husband was taking, probably for his chronic back pain from World War II; and, nothing else objectionable.
JACKIE is an historical movie about Jackie Kennedy, President John Kennedy’s widow. It focuses on Jackie’s feelings as she copes with her tragic loss in the immediate aftermath of her husband’s assassination in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. The movie opens with annoying discordant music as Jackie Kennedy looks stunned on Air Force One after her husband’s murder. Cut to Hyannis Port a week later, where Jackie sits for a magazine interview with Kennedy hagiographer Theodore White. From there, the movie cuts back and forth to other scenes from the previous week, including her preparations for Kennedy’s elaborate funeral. It also includes scenes from Jackie’s televised 1961 tour of the White House.
Eventually, JACKIE gets to Jackie’s horrific experience in the motorcade in Dallas when Kennedy was murdered. However, all the movie’s flashbacks and flash forwards and abrupt scene shifts undercut the movie’s emotional tension. It also undercuts Natalie Portman’s outstanding performance as Jackie. JACKIE has some positive overt Christian content, but it also contains strong foul language, bloody images of President Kennedy’s fatal head wound, and politically correct revisionist history.