Sunday, January 15, 2017

Movie Review: Jackie

Stars:  3.5 - 4 (Jury is still out)

Here's the rub. Natalie Portman will more than likely get an Oscar nod for this film. After a while, you forget you're watching an actress on stage and you get the impression that you're watching Jackie Kennedy.

Here's the other thing. For a number of reasons, I was a little disconcerted and underwhelmed by this film - and most probably because of the scope of the film, which takes in the says from JFK's shooting in Dallas to the days after his funeral. I think I would much rather see a film that encompassed her time as First Lady before Dallas, or her time after the White House. Closing in on this small facet of her life, and knowing the history, this film provides an alternative viewing of this piece of history - or in this case - her-story. 

There are so many great things about this film - but I still came away from it with a bit of a meh sort of feeling. A lot of this is because from the moment you walk into the film, you know what is going to happen. JFK dies, Lyndon Johnson is sworn in as President and there is a big funeral to arrange.

Let's look at the great things. Natalie Portman is stellar as the shocked and grieving Jackie. The movie takes her from cultured and curated First Lady to grieving widow and back again. She's amazing. Peter Sarsgaard almost ghoulish as Bobby Kennedy. Jackie's aide, Nancy, is played by Greta Gerwig - and she provides a bit of humanity to the film. Billy Crudup plays a journalist, interviewing Jackie the week after the funeral. I always find him disconcerting, but his unsettling presence give the film an edge. It's a great cast.

The setting and costumes are amazing. Spot on. The cinematography blew me away. The way the movie was filmed it was like watching a movie which was filmed through the lens of an old Time or Life magazine. It portrayed both the White House and Hyannis Port with grace and elegance, but in a way that shows it as 1963 camera work.

The music provides a haunting counterpoint to the cinematography, always keeping the viewer on edge.

However, for all this good, indeed stellar points, my greatest beef with the film is the fact it has an MA15+ rating. I'm really not sure if it needed to be rated as such. All of this is for one scene in particular. Going into the film, I was wondering how this would come about - and after seeing it, I think the censors are erring on the side of caution.

One of the great mythical parts of the JFK story is that he was shot whilst riding in a motorcade. What is never show is in depth photos of JFK's death. What this film does is demystifies the shooting and shows Jackie scooping up his exploded head and trying to keep it all together. It was this ghoulish detail that left a bad taste with me. The scenes are graphic, but not overly gratuitous, yet I think that this could have been left out. 

These scenes are akin to seeing a movie about Lady Di with scenes of her dead half hanging out of the Mercedes, or Natalie Wood with an anchor through her head.

The other thought that struck me as I walked out of the cinema was "Where were 'her' family in all of this?" The myth of Camelot left me wanting to take her under my wing and give her a big hug. Having to grieve in such a public way would have been horrific. To handle it all with such poise and grace would have taken super-human strength.

It is a sumptuous production. The acting is brilliant. The haunting music will probably get an Oscar not as well. 

I'm glad I've seen it - but I don't need or want to see it again.

No comments: