‘Jackie’: American Fairy Tale Turned Nightmare

Oscar-bait film about aftermath of JFK assassination drives home first lady's key role in national consciousness

On the awards radar as the year comes to a close is “Jackie,” a Natalie Portman-headlined drama about events immediately following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, as seen through the eyes of his wife, Jacqueline.

Recently screened at the AFI Fest among a slew of bigger budget fare such as “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” “Jackie” is earning raves from critics with a near-perfect score of 97 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. In particular, Natalie Portman’s performance in the title role is sparking rumbles of a possible Oscar nomination.

“She was going through something incredibly private.”

“Good enough to make Portman this year’s Best Actress Oscar front-runner,” wrote JoBlo.com’s Chris Bumbray in a review.

“Jackie,” which arrived in theaters Dec. 2, takes moviegoers back to Nov. 22, 1963 — the day that jolted the country when President Kennedy was shot in Dallas, Texas, by Lee Harvey Oswald. First lady Jackie Kennedy grieves for her husband, consoles her family, and works to define the president’s legacy to a grief-stricken nation.

“The understanding she had that even when she was going through something incredibly private, it meant something to other people how she presented herself publicly,” Portman told People Magazine about capturing the first lady’s grieving process on film. “And that isn’t just like, ‘I’m having a hard time; stay away from me; leave me alone.’ It’s like other people share in whatever you’re going through, and that’s really, really impressive that she was able to do that.”

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“Jackie” comes at a unique time for the country — right after one of the most polarized elections in history. The film examines a time in history when those on the Left, Right, and everywhere in between were able to come together to celebrate the legacy and honor of the highest office in the land.

“This is Jackie Kennedy as never really seen before — raw as raw can be,” said a review by ABC News. “She is doing everything she can, in the days following the worst moment of her life, to protect her husband’s legacy, knowing full well his flaws as a husband.”

This film could also remind Americans of the respect the president of the United States demands and the ways in which Americans should come together as a country and a nation.

“This is an invitation to think about who’s going to be in the White House,” noted director Pablo Larrain when introducing the movie at AFI Fest.

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Though Larrain has been a vocal critic of President-Elect Donald Trump, the film is still an attempt to bring honor and dignity to the White House and presidency by examining such a position in the darkest of times.

“Jackie,” which first premiered at the Venice Film Festival, certainly has a wealth of material to pull from. Following Kennedy’s assassination, there was the Warren Commission’s report (which has led to a slew of conspiracy theories today), the swearing-in of then-Vice President Lyndon Johnson, Kennedy’s very public funeral, and even the death of Robert Kennedy less than five years later at the hands of yet another assassin.

The film, however, primarily focuses on the journey of Jackie Kennedy — wife, mother, and first lady — who needed to grieve her husband and protect her children while also showing public strength. More than focusing on the command and honor of America’s highest office, the film likely sheds an even better and more respectable light on that of the first lady, the position Melania Trump will soon hold.

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Portman told People of Jackie Kennedy’s public strength: “It was like she didn’t know how to be any other way, except exactly herself and very, very strong. Very able to author your own story, and she really became the author of her own story — and his [JFK’s] story.”

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