Natalie Portman as a Heroic “Jackie”
By Skip Sheffield
Natalie Portman does not look much like Jackie Kennedy. But put her in a form-fitting pink outfit with matching pink pillbox hat and have her reproduce Jackie’s breathy, posh Bouvier accent and you begin to accept Portman as the iconic, courageous First Lady and widow of John F. Kennedy.
Screenwriter Noah Oppenheim sets “Jackie” just before and after the fateful Dallas cavalcade of Nov. 22, 1963 when a sniper with a rifle shot President Kennedy in the head in his open Lincoln Continental convertible. Chilean director Pablo Larrain is quite graphic in his depiction of the blood and brains aspect of JFK’s assassination. That pretty pink outfit is covered with blood and so is Jackie as she tries to hold back the profuse bleeding (and brain fragments) from JFK’s skull.
Natalie Portman isn’t the only one who does not resemble the character played. Peter Sarsgaard looks nothing like Bobby Kennedy. In fact I puzzled for a while wondering if he was supposed to be JFK’s younger brother.
“Jackie” is not a mirror reflection of historic events but an approximation of how the characters felt in time of crisis. Portman depicts Jackie as a strong, determined, sophisticated woman who doesn’t buckle under pressure. In a flashback we see her lead a televised tour of the White House in 1962 and explaining her vision of restoring the presidential residence.
There are other familiar names (but not faces) of era figures. John Carroll Lynch is Lyndon Johnson, who assumed the presidency and Beth Grant is his socialite wife, Lady Bird. Georgie Glen is matriarch Rose Kennedy and Julie Judd is Bobby’s wife, Ethel Kennedy. John Hurt represents Jackie’s devout side as The Priest and Billy Crudup ties things together as The Journalist, interviewing Jackie.
One thing I learned from this movie was that Jackie was a chain smoker. Maybe that helped her keep that imperially slim figure.
None of us will ever know the complete truth of the JFK assassination or how Jackie Kennedy really felt. Natalie paints a portrait of a delicate, resolute heroine, and that is fine with me.