By Anna Wells (Milton Keynes)

 

As soon as I read about the film Jackie I knew I wanted to see it. My fascination with the Kennedy dynasty and the enduring myth around them has kept me interested in them for years. I’ve read books, watched TV mini-series and stood on the spot where JFK was assassinated. I find them the nearest the US has to royalty, coming from a country where our Queen is a distant figure as head of state. Therefore, Jackie intrigued me immediately and had me questioning how Natalie Portman could play such an enigmatic and glamorous figure whilst showing her flawed character with honesty. Already being a fan of Portman (mainly for her turn in Black Swan), I knew this was a feat well within Portman’s grasp. Surely, the Oscar nominations would be piling up, regardless of what part of Jackie O’s character she chose to portray.

At the end of the film, I still felt the same. Portman has a large majority of the screen time, and literally fills it with her presence. The camera work constantly puts her character front row and centre, the other characters merely sideshows in her personal yet hugely public tragedy. The close-ups attempt to show the pure grief of a woman who has just lost her husband, yet I felt gave more of an insight into the constantly working mind of Jackie Kennedy. How was JFK’s body going to emerge from Airforce One? Who would carry it? How could his legacy be honored through a state funeral? Instead of taking a back seat, Jackie thrust herself into the planning and intricate details of her husband’s final journey.

The film takes a non-linear approach to show different events as they came up through the journalist’s probing of Jackie at her Hyannis Port retreat. Questions arise about the media and their manipulation by Jackie to give a glistening account of JFK and his time in office. However, it seemed the relationship was mutual due to the decision by Jackie to take her children out the front entrance of the White House during the funeral procession. Parallels must be drawn between Jackie and other public figures under huge scrutiny throughout the ages. For a UK audience, there are clear links with Princess Diana and the media hounding she received right until the very last moments of her life. Whilst Jackie Kennedy’s star was shining brightest in the early 60s, the message still resonates up to the present day.

One of my main criticisms of the film was the reliance on the audience to know all the key players and their roles in the White House. The various members of the Kennedy family flitted in and out of view, with only Bobby properly named. He came across as a rather dour and bitter man, perhaps living in the shadow of his more illustrious brother. The other Kennedy’s were nameless, a shame for the female members who had fascinating lives themselves. There should have been more of a nod to Lyndon Johnson, who showed remarkable sensitivity when confronted with the best promotion he could ever hope for. However, these were only bit-part players in the main story of Jackie Kennedy.

As I came out of the cinema, I didn’t feel any more informed about the events of November 1963, nor did I feel Jackie’s actions had been explained or justified. I don’t think the aim of the film is to give a definitive opinion about the President’s wife, nor attempt to slander her for any decisions she took. I felt confusion as to why the film had been made at this particular moment in history, and what place it would take in the pantheon of Kennedy tributes. However, it made me think and it made me interested; that is all I can ask of a film.

Rating: 4/5

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